800 California inmates gave their prison wages to send a kid they'd never met to college
via CBS This Morning / YouTube

"Exercises In Empathy" is a popular program among the inmates at Soledad State Prison in California. It's a book club where inmates get together to discuss literature with students from Palma School, a boys prep school located in nearby Salinas.

"[The students] go in thinking monster … and they come out thinking a man. A human being," Jim Micheletti, co-founder of the book club, told CBS News. "They've done bad things, but there are no throwaway people here."

A few years ago, members of the club read 1962's "Miracle On The River Kwai." The book tells an extraordinary story of survival in prisoner of war camps. In the book, the prisoners created a culture of sacrifice and called it "mucking" for each other.

So one of the inmates in the book club, Jason Bryant, decided that the inmates should "muck' for one of the students at Palma.


"I think that inherently most people, even those of us who have made the worst decision in our lives, want to be a part of something good," Bryant said according to Yahoo. "This idea when we started was just so good: We can help some young man get a head start that a lot of us didn't have."

Unlikely allies: Inmates at Soledad State Prison raise $32,000 to help California student in need www.youtube.com

So they decided to create a scholarship program. Over 800 inmates contributed to the fund pitching in anywhere from $1 to $100. The donations are even more incredible given the fact that the starting wage for an inmate is just 8 cents an hour in California.

Over the course of three years, the inmates raised an incredible $32,000.

"Incarcerated people were so drawn to the idea of going a mile deep in a young man's life that they were giving up their month's pay to contribute," Bryant said.

"I didn't believe it at first," Michelleti said according to CNN. "They said, 'We value you guys coming in. We'd like to do something for your school ... can you find us a student on campus who needs some money to attend Palma?'"

The inmates chose to give the scholarship to Sy Green, a sophomore and member of the book club whose father recently had a heart transplant, and mother was blinded after being hit by a softball. After both lost their jobs, it was impossible for the family to come up with Palma's $12,900 annual tuition.

"I broke down and started crying because I knew where it was coming from," Sy's father, Frank Green, said according to Yahoo.

Sy is now a high school graduate and used some of the money to help him attend college at The Academy of Art University in San Francisco.

The student hopes to visit the inmates whenever he's home on break.

"That's only the right thing to do. Beyond the scholarship, the knowledge that they pour into you, that's, that's the best thing," Sy said. "They definitely take my future serious and they genuinely do care about me as a person."

After serving 20 years for an armed robbery in which one victim was fatally shot, Bryant had his sentence commuted by California Governor Gavin Newsom due to his contributions in restorative work while he was in prison.

He now works as the Director for Restorative Work at an organization called Creating Restorative Opportunities and Programs (CROP) which helps formerly incarcerated people succeed in their communities.

via Abigail Mack / Instagram and Abigail Mack / TikTok

Abigail Mack, an 18-year-old high school senior from Massachusetts, is over the moon after being admitted to Harvard during the most competitive admission season of all time.

Applications to the university skyrocketed during the pandemic and it was only able to accept 1,968 out of 57,435 first-year applicants, less than 4%.

However, Abigail didn't just overcome long odds during the application process, she was accepted because she was able to thrive as a high school student after losing her mother to cancer. Her experience losing a parent was the topic of her inspiring admissions essay which has touched countless lives.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
True

The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

Keep Reading Show less