For many, the long weekend ahead symbolizes an opportunity to wrap up our work, shut down our email, and spend a few days reflecting on the things in our lives that inspire feelings of joy and gratitude. As we head into a second year of pandemic holidays, Hudson Link wanted to take a moment to share some of the things we will be giving thanks for during this season of reflection and appreciation.
Freedom: As an organization that works with currently and formerly incarcerated people, we spend a lot of time thinking about and appreciating the value of freedom. Freedom is something that all of our students – and many of our Hudson Link staff members, when they themselves were students – have longed for. Although for some it may be many years until they experience physical freedom, the pursuit of intellectual freedom is often what motivates Hudson Linkers to excel so exceptionally in their classroom pursuits. This year we were grateful to see the release of many Hudson Link students, including three gentlemen (JJ, pictured top with Sean Pica; Robert, pictured bottom; and Nehru, not pictured here) who were granted their freedom via executive clemency.
Whether in its physical or intellectual form, Hudson Link pauses this holiday season to reflect on and appreciate the value of freedom, which means so much to us, to so many of the people we serve, and to their families.
Fellowship: Isolation and separation from loved ones have been a common struggle throughout the pandemic, and at Hudson Link, it has been no different. For sixteen months our staff and faculty were separated from our students, unable to work with them in person due to necessary public health and safety precautions. For nearly a year and a half, our only contact with our students was the written word. Our Alumni Services Department also felt the sting of separation, having to move our beloved alumni gatherings from in-person to virtual throughout the pandemic in order to ensure everyone’s safety.
After so many months apart, we have been so thankful to find ways to come together safely once again. During the warm months of 2021, the Hudson Link community convened outdoors in a variety of ways, from cookouts in the Hudson Link parking lot to an alumni barbecue in Queens (pictured above left) to a faculty retreat (above right) that started online and concluded on the beautiful grounds of Bethany Arts Community. As we head into the colder months and the opportunities to gather in person become more limited once again, we are grateful to have had these chances to be together in the midst of the pandemic. Hudson Link knows better than ever now the value of a warm hug and a kind word, and we will be reflecting on our gratitude for fellowship in the days and weeks ahead.
Faithful Support: To say that this pandemic was a scary time for nonprofit organizations would be something of an understatement. Yet at every turn, Hudson Link supporters – our board of directors, our individual donors, the foundations and organizations who contribute money and resources, and many others – have blown us away. We are thankful not only for their generosity, but also for their faith in our ability to steward these resources for the benefit of our students and alumni. We know we would not be here without this support.
Opportunity: Hudson Link is a college program, so of course, we love to watch our students master new skills, gain confidence in the classroom, and eventually earn their degrees. But we are dedicated to more than just their academic successes, which mean nothing if they do not lead to a more fulfilled and rewarding life. We are grateful this holiday season for the transformation that is possible when employers give our students the opportunity to leverage their degrees into careers. From program directors to artists, to award-winning journalists, our students have encountered opportunities that have changed their lives – and we are so thankful.
Platform: Well-meaning people often talk about social justice work as an opportunity to give voice to the voiceless. At Hudson Link, we know that it is not voice our students are missing, but audience. Our job is to build our students a platform, plug in a microphone, and then allow them to speak for themselves. In order for that voice to be heard, there must be someone to listen. There must be opportunities for our students and alumni to be heard. This holiday season we are thankful for all of you – those who read this e-blast, who follow us on Instagram and Facebook, who come to our events, and who watch the videos of our students using their voices. Your presence in the audience makes Hudson Link a platform for the voices of currently and formerly incarcerated people. Thank you for helping Hudson Link not to give voice to the voiceless, but to amplify the strong voices of directly impacted people who require an audience with open ears, open minds, and open hearts. Without you, we would just be talking to ourselves.
Wishing you the best for a safe and healthy holiday season!