Dear editor:

I am writing today to acknowledge an organization that has provided me with life changing volunteer opportunity these past three years. That organization is the non-profit prison re-entry program, RISE (formerly Defy Ventures Nebraska Nebraska).

When I say life changing, I am speaking about my own life! Three years ago, I came to know that the State of Nebraska had authorized this non-profit to offer its six-month job readiness, character building, and entrepreneurial learning curriculum to willing incarcerated men and women, no matter the length of their sentences. Upon reaching out, my request to participate in periodic in-prison business coaching events was immediately responded to with a resounding, “Welcome!”

Initially, I questioned if I “qualified” for participation in RISE. I soon realized that listening and honest feedback were the key elements needed to be of benefit to the brave Builders (RISE participants). Each volunteer brings something different to a coaching event, and collectively, we offer a broad array of insights to the Builders.

Over time, I wondered if I was volunteering too often. I now understand that my repeat appearance affirm that there is a caring community outside of the confines of our Nebraska correctional institutions. Nebraska Department of Corrections Director Scott Frakes, wardens, correctional officers, Nebraska parole board members and state senators have participated in the RISE outreach events. We laugh, we cheer, we clap, we cry, and we BUILD because we have HOPE! Graduates of RISE go on to mentor subsequent classes. The sense of worth the graduates come to embrace ripples through each facility.

After incarceration ends, there is multifaceted support in the RISE Post Release Program. Currently, 70 individuals are in this program and 90 percent are employed, with zero repeat incarcerations to date. Yes, ZERO repeat incarcerations.

Incarcerated Nebraskans have the skills and experience needed to fill the many open jobs within our state. Each of us can help make a second chance happen for them by being a link to that job and the dignity it offers. Reach out to RISE.org today and be that link.

Nancy Bingham-Hartnett,

Coleridge

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