UVA Resilience Education teaching both in and outside of prisons

A program from the University of Virginia is working to give those incarcerated a second chance after they’re released.
Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 2:11 PM EDT
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FLUVANNA COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - A program from the University of Virginia is working to give those incarcerated a second chance after they’re released.

MBA students with the Darden School of Business come to Buckingham and Dillwyn Correctional Centers and Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women to teach students who are behind bars.

“I first became aware of the Resilience Education Program during incarceration at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women,” Cereatha Howard said. “I graduated from that program in 2014.”

There is an application process, and the program focuses on people who are close to release.

“Resilience Education was founded on the principle that the business community needed to be part of the solution to help with the employment of formerly incarcerated people,” Resilience Education Executive Director Tierney Fairchild said. “Lack of employment is the number one reason why people go back into the system. And so we believe that the business community and business schools have a role to play.”

The program, now expanding beyond UVA to schools like Columbia and Wharton, teaches business foundations, financial capability, and entrepreneurship.

Students can earn a certificate from the Darden School and course credit from the UVA School of Continuing and Professional Studies.

“The impact that we’ve seen is we’re building the confidence of our incarcerated learners, as well as their capabilities,” Fairchild said.

Howard says she is working towards opening her own hair salon while also helping other graduates of the program.

“It’s hard when you’re first coming out, you know? You don’t know who to contact about different things,” she said. “I’m the go-to person. I pretty much usually can help folks with that.”

Howard along with other graduates and teachers serve as mentors to the more than 200 and counting graduates of the program.

“[Those who are releases] don’t generally have a problem getting their first job. What they’re trying to do is to get a career, and that’s what our mentoring program is helping them do,” Fairchild said.

The impact goes beyond the incarcerated students: “It was an incredible experience. Honestly, truly life changing,” Darden graduate and Resilience Education teacher Jackie Temkin said. “I found myself really reevaluating a lot of my own hiring practices and realizing that unnecessary bars to applying to jobs was both hurting me as a small business, but also hurting this huge group of folks who really want to work.”

Temkin taught at the Fluvanna Women’s Correctional Center: “It was absolutely incredible to see this group of women who a lot of them came from such diverse backgrounds and a lot of them had never been encouraged to learn or run a business, do math things like that before,” she said. “So to give them a lot of tools to empower them to take you know, their destiny to the next step, it was really amazing to see them learn and grow as a students.”

“It was kind of a driving force as to why I applied here,” Darden student and Resilience Education teacher Erik Smith said. “To come into their space or to be welcomed into their space and teach them in the ways that you’ve been taught, I think really resonated with me.”

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