Bedford, New York – On Thursday, May 25th, 2023, Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison and Marymount Manhattan College hosted a commencement ceremony at Taconic Correctional Facility. The day honored the achievements of five graduates who received their bachelor’s degrees in politics and human rights and another three individuals who received their associate degrees in liberal arts.
The keynote speech was given by author, educator, community activist, and entrepreneur Dr. Jamila T. Davis, who gave a moving address to the graduating students and their guests. Davis, who was in federal prison for 12 1/2 years and earned her own degrees while incarcerated, knows firsthand the impact of education in prisons. She has used her real-life experience and her story of redemption to create a platform to empower others and has been featured on hit shows, including “Love and Hip Hop” and VH1’s “My True Crime Story,” the CBS series “Pink Collar,” BET’s “Sister Circle,” Black Enterprise, Forbes, “The Breakfast Club” with Charlamagne tha God, as well as The New York Times, and USA Today.
Student commencement speaker Jennifer R. shared, “Once inside the classroom, it’s like time stops, and the only important thing is striving for your education. The professors treat us like students, not individuals who are incarcerated. Even more encouraging is that some of the professors that come in to teach have been in the same position as us, giving a glimpse at what our futures can look like even though we’ve been incarcerated. The college program has helped me and others do our time constructively.”
“This year, Hudson Link celebrates our 25th anniversary and the awarding of our 1,000th degree. Our organization was founded due to the contributions of incarcerated women, and this year’s graduating class at Taconic Correctional Facility is a continuation of that work,” commented Hudson Link’s Executive Director, Sean Pica. “Our partnership with Marymount Manhattan College and the Department of Corrections allows our students to access limitless opportunities that come with education and represents our commitment to holding the door open for others as we create generational, social, and intellectual wealth.”
“MMC’s Taconic students are extraordinarily eloquent about the power of education to transform their lives and the lives of those around them,” says MMC President Kerry Walk. “Many of the students and alumnae describe entering the Taconic College Program weighed down by self-doubt, but their professors believe in them, knowing what they’re capable of achieving, and their self-doubt turns into self-empowerment.”
Superintendent of Taconic Correctional Facility Emily Willams stated, “I, along with my Executive Team and the staff of Taconic Correctional Facility, are so proud of the graduates’ hard work and perseverance! They have embraced their educational journey and are working to succeed and secure tools that will support a positive transformation of their lives. We remain honored to participate in this and other wonderful collaborations with the outstanding Hudson Link Community.”