“That space, from where we are to awareness and enlightenment, is where you can find the Roots of Success.”

Roots of Success is more than just an environmental literacy and job readiness program. Students and instructors go through the course and leave with new perspectives and experiences that go beyond what’s in the curriculum. Grady Mitchell was incarcerated at age 18 to 63. In 2013, he was certified as a Roots of Success instructor. Over the many decades he was incarcerated, Grady mentored thousands of men incarcerated in Washington state prisons, and eventually became a Master Trainer and Roots of Success board member. This month, he received clemency from the governor and was finally able to return home to his wife Patricia and other members of his family and community. Check back here on our blog in the coming months to learn more about his experience, and learn what’s next for Grady and Roots of Success.

At a 2018 Roots of Success graduation at Stafford Creek Corrections Center, Grady described how Roots of Success encourages students to speak up for others, and empowers them to make positive changes in their communities. Below is an excerpt from Grady’s graduation ceremony speech:

“I recently spoke with a young man about standing up for those who need it. I reminded him of how much he appreciated it when someone else spoke up for him when he was confronted with a situation, and they didn’t just lay low and keep quiet. Some call this type of action ‘standing in the gap’ for someone. 

As we learn the impact our actions have on this planet, it becomes imperative that speaking up and out is equal to survival. When I speak with my grandchildren and tell them I love them, it’s my call to action to be sure that I try and assure the resources they have will sustain their survival. I pray the knowledge I share with them will inspire efforts within them towards their children’s survival.

Never underestimate the phenomenal impact we’ve had on each other, and no matter what your philosophy in life, you will have to be open to new ideas when it comes to the environment. It is our desire to bring out that voice that is particular to each of us, in order for others to hear and understand that sustainability in this sense is all-inclusive. Now we see each other with respect, value, and appreciation for individuality. What started as impatience for some, ended in tolerance of flaws, and discovery of each other’s value. While we may not ascribe to the mores of prison or commit acts of insensitivity, do we at times perpetuate it by standing aside and staying silent? 

Unfortunately, ‘standing in the gap’ is not always easy, and can sometimes have consequences. The threat of reprisal can deter people—both confined and free—from being righteous or doing justice. Nevertheless, there is a psychological cost involved in following this philosophy, because ultimately, lying low and keeping quiet can damage you mentally.

As I talk about standing in the gap, the ‘gap’ creates the opportunity to become useful. That space from where we are to awareness and enlightenment, is where you can find the Roots of Success.”

This speech and photos are from a Roots of Success graduation at Stafford Creek Corrections Center in March 2018.

Photo by B Shepler courtesy of SPP

Photo by B Shepler Courtesy of SPP