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Rising Hope is an all-volunteer organization that provides one year of college level education to men in prison. We operate in seven New York State prisons. Since 1995 more than 600 men have graduated with a Certificate in Ministry & Human Services. Rising Hope is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 corporation sustained entirely by private donations; it does not receive any government funding.

We do not charge tuition for enrollment in the program and our professors volunteer their time to teach the courses. We loan the students the textbooks they need for the courses. At the end of the program we tell them that the only way that they can discharge their debt to us is to “pay it forward.” That is, we expect them to give of themselves in service to others both while they’re in prison as well as after their release. We ask them to use their newly developed academic skills and spiritual maturity to build up whatever community they find themselves in, whether in prison or on the outside.

While the program is based upon the curriculum taught during the first year at many Christian seminaries, it is open to prison inmates of any faith or of no religious affiliation at all. The program is open to students and teachers of all faiths who are willing to work within the flexible outlines of the curriculum and who can respect other faith traditions. We study the material from an academic perspective without proselytizing. We value the expression of and understanding for all serious faith perspectives. Our goal is not to tell the students what their faith should be but to help them grow as they pursue their personal faith journey.

Grades are based on academic performance and the quality of reflection—not on the content of the student’s faith. We expect each participant to leave the program as a better practitioner of their respective faith, whatever that might be.

Thus, the CMHS Program is offered to men in prison without cost. It is an opportunity to join a community of educators and students dedicated to expanding the horizons of spiritual maturity, ethical conduct and scholarship even while within prison walls.

Rising Hope, Inc. admits students of all races, colors, national and ethnic origins, religions, ages, genders, and sexual orientation to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded and made available to students of the program. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, ethnicity, religion, age, gender, or sexual orientation in the administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, or any other administered programs.

My time in the certificate program has been the best combination of academic and social experience I have ever gone through. The CMHS program greatly influenced my decision to begin service and ministry to the [Sing Sing] population as a leader in the Alternatives to Violence support group, peer counselor in the AIDS program, and editor of the facility newspaper. I have completed my BS through Nyack College, and attained my Masters of Professional Studies [from NY Theological Seminary].
                              Johnny Conyers