To reach, touch, and change the lives of individuals with disadvantaged backgrounds through advocacy,
mentoring, and policy change

Happy New Year!
Good-Bye 2020...Hello 2021
Happy New Year!

What a year 2020 was. It began like no other in our lifetime and now that it is over, you can almost hear the collective sigh. We crossed the finish line but not without a lot of scars, pain, frustration, and fatigue. We do hope though that even during "the year of 2020", that you were able to find some joy –joy in spending more time with the people in your home, connecting remotely with people that you had not connected with in a while, and joy in focusing inward on yourself – taking a breath, taking stock and practicing self-care.

As we begin a new year, we are still in the throes of the pandemic that so quickly swept the world and the remnants of the year that presented so many other challenges. From the continued police murders of Black people, the rise of white supremacists, a lack of leadership from the White House on the pandemic and the refusal to denounce racism, and a contentious election. We continue to see a sitting president refuse to accept his loss and continue to destroy our democracy. A man intent on "burning down the house on his way out".

But we now have a vaccine, new leadership coming in and bringing with them, a renewed sense of hope.

We hope you will settle back, enjoy our 1st newsletter of a brand new year and share a brief recap of 2020.

A 2020 Look Back

2020 was a year of turmoil to be sure. Our P2P program was not immune. Our prisons and jails went on lockdown and all programming stopped. Mail in and out was adversely affected. COVID-19 went on a rampage in our facilities - staff and incarcerated individuals alike When the institutions went on lockdown, it was with ingenuity, creativity and hard work that our programming team rose to the challenge to deliver a completely different year of programs and we too went virtual.

P2P worked in conjunction with a focused coalition to fight for the release of individuals (elderly, pregnant, those with disabilities and chronic conditions and those with imminent release dates), we worked to hold the Department of Public Safety accountable to ensure people had appropriate and ample PPE, we delivered to the Metropolitan Transition Center PPE for staff and residents. We worked with community partners to ensure those coming home had the basics that they needed. It was certainly a trying time - but it also a time of P2P rising to meet the challenges.

Despite the challenges we hired two new directors to shape and lead our Programs, and our Policy and Advocacy efforts. We graduated two amazing cohorts (read more below) and we launched and opened the P2P Residential House and moved in 2 scholars. We effectively advocated for Ban the Box legislation in Pennsylvania and continued our leadership role in the Unlock Higher Ed coalition. We hired new program coordinators and facilitators and saw several of our scholars rise up and become mentors.

We made it, we pivoted and met the challenges and now we can look forward.

Looking Ahead

I think we can all agree that 2020 was intense. We rode a rollercoaster of emotions last year. From high levels of anxiety, to COVID fatigue, frustration and sadness to hope and joy. And let's be honest, we all got "Zoomed" out from time to time. The division in our world is deep and wide and we must find a way to be able to disagree and still show respect for one another. And we know that we can.

The challenges that will face us in 2021 will undoubtedly be of a different kind but we will continue to rise, pivot and with grace and empathy, we shall meet them all.

May the New Year bring good health, happiness and good fortune.

Happy Reading -

Congress clinches deal to restore Pell grants for
incarcerated individuals 26 years after ban

"He who opens a school door, closes a prison"
Victor Hugo
"In a monumental announcement,
after over a quarter century, Congress will reinstate Pell grants for incarcerated students! The 1994 crime bill banned Pell for incarcerated folks, yanking hope and opportunity away and effectively making prisons warehouses of human bodies solely for punishment.

From Prison Cells to PhD along with the Unlock Higher Ed Coalition have worked tirelessly to center the voices and leadership of currently and formerly incarcerated people in this movement.

This is an incredible victory for society and our communities. It almost feels unreal."
Stanley Andrisse
Executive Director
Unlock Higher Ed on the Hill
Stanley Andrisse
Executive Director
Annie Phoenix
Operation Restoration
The compromise also includes language to simplify the application for federal financial aid and grant more than $1 billion in loan forgiveness for HBCUs.

Congressional leaders have struck a deal to reinstate Pell grants for incarcerated students more than a quarter century after banning the aid for prison education programs, top Democrats and Republicans announced on Sunday.

The legislation, which is expected to be included as part of the year-end spending deal, would lift the prohibition Congress imposed in the 1994 crime bill that then-President Bill Clinton signed and Joe Biden championed as a senator.

Read More HERE
Rep. Bobby Scott called the deal a "significant step" toward making "federal grants and loans more accessible and more generous, particularly for our most vulnerable students."
| Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images
P2P Scholar Applications Open for 2021-2022

Now recruiting for our Virtual Cohort #17 starting on January 16th

Are you ready?
There is still time to apply

Our educational counseling consists of 1- month of weekend workshops focused on four components:
(1) SAT/GRE;
(2) College Applications;
(3) Loan Applications; and
(4) College Readiness.

We’re looking for ambitious, conscientious returning citizens who are ready for college-level work. Below are the requirements:

Scholar Requirements
High school diploma or GED
Verbal and math skills entrance test
Formerly incarcerated, criminal conviction/arrest, or disadvantaged background
Desire to obtain college education

All Scholars who complete the program are eligible for our benefits that include:
$1,500 scholarship towards school upon successful completion.
Certificate and Letter of Recommendation
Access to employment opportunities
Paid mini-internship opportunity
Mental Health Assessment
2 years of mentorship and tutoring
Scholar Team Building events
Community Organization event
National Meeting in the Fall or Spring

Sign up Today! Fill out our online application Apply Here!!
For questions, email
We Rise by Lifting Others
Volunteer Opportunities
At P2P, our work is transformative. Each day we work to reach, touch, and change the lives of people with criminal convictions through our mentoring program, advocacy efforts and policy change. We help inspire our scholars and to excel BEYOND what society and life circumstances say is the norm.

Our mentors to provide support for our Scholars for their goals, challenges, and inspirations. The commitment is 1-2 hours per week for 1 year with virtual or in-person options available. Must be a formerly incarcerated college graduate.

P2P proudly operates in over 2 dozen states with over 400 individuals with criminal convictions from across the country applying annually. Each scholar is matched with a Mentor and that is where you can be a part of the Transformation.

Volunteer to be a Mentor TODAY!

or apply directly

For more information: 

Our next cohort of Scholars starts VIRTUALLY

January 16, 2021

Become a TUTOR

Our tutors provide general and subject-specific tutoring; help set and assess academic goals; support Scholar development. The commitment is ~1-2 hours per week with virtual or in-person tutoring options available. 

For more information, please contact our Program Coordinator:

Want to be a part of our journey?

Apply On-Line HERE
Welcome new P2P Team Members:

Donte Small - Interim Director of Information Technology

Ricardo Lopez - TRP Resident Assistant
P2P House Opens!
At P2P we know the challenges of finding safe housing when someone is released from incarceration. If you cannot find housing, you can't focus on your education; and you can't focus on your education if you don't know where you will lay your head.

P2P launched our residential housing program this fall to address this for our scholars. We invite you to learn more, support, and help share our exciting news!
A New Partnership
Amgen Foundation Announces Recipients of $5.25M to Support Social Justice and Equal Opportunity

P2P is proud to announce our newest foundation partner. We thank AMGEN for their support. Click below to read their full announcement.
Spotlight On.... Malika Kidd & Lana Mendis
Our scholars are achieving amazing heights and are truly transforming the world.

We are delighted to share their accomplishments.
Malikka Kidd
Malika is a 2020 graduate of the P2P program. She has not let the grass grow under her feet. From garnering the support to get into a culinary program where she has been promoted three times to going for her Masters degree, Malika is a woman to watch.

Currently she is the Program Director of Workforce Development for Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries in Ohio. COVID has not slowed her down here either - she was able to pivot secure tablets to ensure distance learning was not impacted. She oversees this critical program.
She is a staunch advocate for education and second chances. She is a graduate with both an AA and bachelor’s degree from Cleveland State University and starting in January she is set to pursue her MBA.

She shared her story and thoughts in an opinion piece on the EdTrust website. You can read it HERE

Malika is an example of paying things forward. She cites as one of her favorite quotes Matthew 25 36-41

36"I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick, and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Malika is mentor in the upcoming cohort. She has her eye on the future and wants to open a housing program for women with children. Drawing on her own experiences, she is the voice that ensure that things are easier for those who come behind her.

Asking her for words for next scholar cohorts she said, "take advantage of all the programs and the trainings and the self-care - we all need this".

Finally, she was asked to sum up her experience as a P2P scholar to a stranger and she simply "It was a wonderful experience, I gained a lot, learned a lot, and shared a lot"

Malika, we can't wait to see what's next~
Lana Mendis
Lana is also a 2020 graduate and as it turns out, both she and Malikka work together. In a perfect example of how women support women, Malikka shared information about the P2P program with Lana and encouraged her to apply.

When we spoke with her recently, she shared that in addition to her work as an employment specialist, she is part of a team that provides 14,000 meals a week to shelters across her county. An effort that is response to the impact of COVID. She is also a Reentry Specialist with Securus Foundation where she manages the Exodus Planner which helps individuals transition back to their community and she trains service providers in how to use the platform.
She does all of this while going to college full-time in pursuit of her degree in Leadership in Ministry. She will receive her degree next year and she plans to continue her education by pursuing a Masters degree. Phew!

Lana is the recipient of the 2020 Presidential Volunteer Services Award and she received the Dr. Reginald Wilkinson 2nd Chance scholarship - an award that she was identified to receive by a supervisor while she was incarcerated.

Lana clearly is a woman on the move!

When asked about her experiences with P2P, she shared the following:
"I enjoyed every minute. The staff are dedicated, honest and this is clearly their passion. They put a lot a lot into each participant".

She shared that she did not know what to expect when she started, but that she went in with an open mind and learned so much. "It ended up being a great experience with everyone in the cohort sharing experiences and even some tears".

Lana is focused on her goals, her work, her education and family. She has made the most of the opportunities that came her way and she is clearly poised to be an amazing changemaker!
Congratulations to our 2020 Scholars
2020 was a challenge to be sure - but despite COVID forcing P2P to pivot in how we conduct our programs, we are enormously proud of the scholars who graduated this year.

Please join us in congratulating our newest Scholars:
Carl Brown
Daniel Bullman
Philip Byron
Dyquan Campbell
Martha Davis- Turnquest
Jared Gerlach
Donnelle Jones
Malika Kidd
Ricardo Lopez
Carlos Martin
Jorge Melendrez
Lana Mendis
Dr. Thomas Moore
David Morgan
Shakkir Mujahid
Basia Skudrzyk
Michelle Smith
Jessica Zarling
Take pride in how far you have come and faith in how far you will go
What our scholars are saying:

"P2P has been instrumental in
helping me find community" Daniel
"P2P was a life changer for me -
I was encouraged to dig deep
to find my strengths, set goals, and put
one foot in front of the other
to achieve those goals" Philip
"Thank you for investing in my potential" Jessica

I would not be in the position that I am in today
without the strong family support
of the P2P family" Basia
"The P2P program has allowed me
to see that my goals are attainable" David
"Our lives are our testimony,
our past does not define
who we are" Lana
"I am so thankful for the support, encouragement,
and connections I've made by participating.
I'm glad to be a part of this advocacy family" Michelle

"It was an amazing experience. I never expected
to experience this kind of comradery.
It really changed my perspective that you had to be a lone
recovering your life." Shakkir
Interested in Interning?
P2P currently has virtual positions on our Advocacy and Outreach team.

If you are interested, send a copy of your resume and letter of interest to our Director of Policy, Advocacy and Outreach.

Apply HERE

P2P is Recruiting for 2021 Policy & Advocacy Team Volunteers/Interns

The Virtual Policy and Advocacy Associate, will assist the Policy team with legislation tracking, drafting memos, testimony and talking points on crucial legislation, participate in meetings and committee hearings, and providing administrative support. Ideal candidates are self-starters with a strong interest in progressive legislation. A base knowledge of the legislative process is preferred.

Is this you? Sign up TODAY~

Need more information?
Social Media Volunteer/Intern
The Social Media volunteer will work closely with the Policy, Advocacy and Outreach team to create engaging content for P2P's social media presence, including keeping social media channels updated and brand-focused, and seeking out new social media avenues and ways of connecting with audiences.

Interested? Apply Here!
A New Collaboration
From Prison Cells to PHD is committed to helping formerly incarcerated individuals make a smooth transition back into society and back on their feet.

We know how difficult it is to get going, so in partnership with YOUNG MEN STRONG we are working to promote and give care packages to the scholars in the P2P program in Maryland.

Visit our crowdfunding link today to see how you can help!

Unlock Higher Ed Coalition Updates
​Unlock Higher Education was born out of a strong need to center the voices and leadership of formerly incarcerated scholars and professionals to the forefront in matters of advocacy, public education, and policy reform at the local, state, and federal levels. We believe that higher education creates pathways to financial stability and increased opportunity.

As higher education in prison programs across the nation are scrambling to transition courses to correspondence and students are feeling the loss of contact with professors and academic community members, it seems even more pressing that we uplift the importance of higher education programming in prisons and continue to our push for federal and state legislation to support these programs.
Education is the one thing they can't take from you.
In 2021, the primary focus will be to build and increase the coalition membership and network across the nation to carry out their efforts to the finish line and beyond.

We are looking at a progressive moment to continue our legislative advocacy activities. We need each of you to get involved and let's make a big push.

Need to know how? We've got the information you need.

Make plans to join our next National meeting on Monday January 11th!

Mark Your Calendar

Register HERE:
Unlock Higher Ed Ban the Box Event

01/11/21 1:00pm - 01/11/21 2:30pm

I'll be there!
I can't make it
We are proud to announce our recurring Facebook Live series launches in January.

We hope that you will join us for some insightful conversation, special speakers, and engaging discussions.
12:00 PM EST
January 20, 2021
COVID, Prisons & Education

Join us as we explore the impact of COVID in our prisons and how it has impacted educational and vocational programming.

Follow us on Facebook

January 14th
5:00 pm - 6:30 pm COVID-19 and RE-ENTRY

In collaboration with the students of the John Hopkins Incarceration and Health Justice Collective join us as we discuss the need for continuity of care when people are being released. Currently this is not happening in a coordinated manner and this failure to do presents a potential public health crisis.

Register HERE:
Congress should lift the ban on Pell Grants to help people in prison get a second chance

Noel Vest
Opinion Contributor

I entered the prison system at a time in my life when it felt like everything was against me. After a series of difficult events that took over my life, I turned to drugs and alcohol as a way to escape, landing me a lengthy prison sentence. However, once I started this new chapter, I discovered an opportunity that encouraged me to reflect on my past life experiences and transform them into a sense of purpose — taking college courses in prison.

Read Dr. Vest's full opinion HERE
Why Pell Grants Can Help Fight the Pandemic

Higher education is a key tool for improving safety in prisons, and that’s more important now than ever.

Atop priority for us, as the heads of our state departments of corrections in Tennessee and Washington, is combatting the Covid-19 pandemic both inside and outside the walls of our facilities. Expanding access to higher education for people in prison might not be one of the first solutions you think of when it comes to controlling the pandemic, but we think it should be.

Read the full opinion HERE
Become a Supporter TODAY!

From Prison Cells to PhD is NOT about helping people pursue a PhD or doctorate or professional degree. We are here to help people pursue their innate excellence, to help them tap into and reach their full potential, via higher educational attainment (trade-school to professional school and beyond). The organizational name is a metaphor for going from a place of desolate despair to a place of prosperity, self-value, and self-worth.
WE INVEST IN POTENTIAL. We provide a blanket of support in the form of resources, tools, and social capital to move people towards their full achievement.
Won’t you help re-write someone’s story and invest in their potential?

Thanks to the generous support of our community, partners and funders, P2P can continue to provide our educational programming, mentoring and advocacy activities.

As you are making plans for gift giving this holiday season, remember you can give the gift of a brighter, more just future this holiday season through a donation.

Want to make a personal difference in someone's life?
Become a Pen Pal Today!

When someone is incarcerated, they very often lose contact and regular communication with people outside of the prison. Receiving visits, letters, and emails while in prison can have an enormous impact on a person’s mental health and can reduce their likelihood of returning to prison after they are released.

A small commitment of time can have a huge impact.

Prison-to-Professionals (P2P) leads a group of volunteers who volunteer to be pen pals to people who are currently incarcerated.

Every week we get new requests for pen pals. Simply put, we need more pen pals on the outside to meet the need on the inside.

By becoming a Pen Pal and committing to write at least 2 letters a month, you can build new friendships and make a difference in the day and life of an incarcerated individual

Become a Pen Pal Today