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Cummings Foundation Grant to Help Emerson Prison Initiative Grow

The Emerson Prison Initiative (EPI) recently received a two-year, $100,000 grant from the Cummings Foundation to help expand the program.

The Emerson Prison Initiative began in the 2017-2018 academic year.

“The Cummings Foundation Grant comes at a pivotal time for the Emerson Prison Initiative,” said Cara Moyer-Duncan, acting director of EPI and associate professor in the Marlboro Institute of Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies. “Last fall we launched EPI’s Reentry and College Outside Program and our second cohort of students started on their pathway to the Bachelor’s degree. This grant will allow us to expand the support we provide to formerly incarcerated students. It will also allow us to sustain our course offerings at MCI-Concord and Northeastern Correctional Center.”

The Cummings Foundation was created in 1986 by Joyce and Bill Cummings, and has awarded more than $375 million in grants to Greater Boston nonprofits. Foundation grants benefit a broad range of causes, including human services, education, healthcare, and social justice.

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EPI’s grant was part of the Foundation’s $25 Million Grant Program for 2022. Emerson Prison Initiative was one of 100 local nonprofits to receive $100,000. Part of the grant will go to having a full-time EPI program coordinator focused on reentry.

“EPI is about equalizing access to a high quality liberal arts education,” said Moyer-Duncan. “We believe everyone deserves access to higher education. We offer the same courses at MCI-Concord and Northeastern Correctional Center as what’s offered on our Boston campus. They are rigorous, have integrity and help incarcerated students grow as scholars, as thinkers, as people, and I think it’s been empowering to students to have access to that kind of education.”

Moyer-Duncan has seen the success of EPI firsthand. She has taught in the program since its inception in the 2017-2018 academic year, and joined EPI’s advisory committee shortly thereafter.

This summer she’s teaching Worldwide Underground, a class about hip-hop around the globe. Students discuss hip-hop’s roots in Africa and the Caribbean, and look at its birth in the Bronx in the 1970s. They examine the social, political, and economic realities that led to hip-hop music, culture, art, dancing and its spread to other nations.

“We’re really excited to expand our mission by providing a robust reentry support program to formerly incarcerated students to make sure they continue their education at Emerson or somewhere else that might better fit their needs and aspirations,” said Moyer-Duncan. “We want to continue to help them progress to college degrees if they didn’t complete it while inside prison.”

In addition to the Cummings Foundation grant, EPI also received $20,700 from the Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison to expand course offerings and admit new students.

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