Prison Scholar Fund Awards

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Two incarcerated students received funds to help with their tuition from the Prison Scholar Fund.

Two incarcerated students received funds to help with their tuition and fee expenses from the Prison Scholar Fund, which was founded by an incarcerated student.

Receiving the 2006 Dirk Van Velzen Scholarship are Michael E. Williams, an inmate at the Tamms Supermax Facility in Tamms, IL, and Jeffrey Sacik, an inmate at SCI Greene, in Waynesburg, PA. The Prison Scholar Fund, a nonprofit organization founded by a currently incarcerated Penn State World Campus student, presented the award. Michael Williams is using his funds to cover tuition and book expenses for a Civil Law specialty course he is taking at the Blackstone Career Institute through distance education. Mr. Williams also recently completed a paralegal course at Blackstone.

Jeffrey Sacik is using his award to pay for certification tests to become a licensed certified HVAC technician. Mr. Sacik is taking his tests through distance education at Ferris State University’s HVACR Institute in Big Rapids, MI.

These scholarships represent the second round of awards presented by the Prison Scholar Fund. The latest awards were made possible in part due to a donation from David and Carol Myers in Michigan. Mr. Myers is a professor of psychology at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.

A Rand stdudy concluded that education is the most cost-effective crime prevention program available. Translated into savings, every dollar spent on education returns more than two dollars to the citizens in reduced prison costs. Dirk Van Velzen, an incarcerated student at the Florence Corrections Center in Arizona, noticed the need to help other incarcerated students who have been trying unsuccessfully to afford college tuition. “We all understand the desire to make our community a better place in which to live,” Dirk states, “no matter which community we find ourselves living in.”

About the Prison Scholar Fund

The Prison Scholar Fund raises money through fund-raising activities such as its calendar, mouse pad, and coffee mug sales, which feature drawings from incarcerated artists. It also accepts contributions from corporate and individual sponsors. Dirk Van Velzen, currently a junior pursuing degrees in business administration and organizational leadership at Penn State, founded the fund. He was recently presented with Penn State’s President Sparks Award, which is presented annually to sophomores with a cumulative 4.00 GPA. In addition, he has recently been nominated by the University for the Penn State Trustee’s scholarship, which is given to a limited number of students.


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Willet Van Velzen