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Dirk is passionate about prisoner education. While incarcerated for 15 years for a series of commercial burglaries in federal, state, and private prisons, he graduated at the top of his class at Pennsylvania State University. Seeing that others would walk a similar path, Dirk founded the Prison Scholar Fund (PSF) from behind bars supporting 110 incarcerated students before his release in 2015. Only 4% of the 83 released students have been reincarcerated, compared to a national 68% recidivism rate.
Released himself in 2015, Dirk graduated from a Nonprofit Management program at the University of Washington (2015), won first place in the Social Venture Partners Fast Pitch business plan competition (2015), and rocked a Social Entrepreneurship program at the Stanford Graduate School of Business (2016).
Dirk was accepted into the inaugural cohort of musician John Legend & New Profit’s “Unlocked Futures” accelerator (2017), is a JustLeadershipUSA fellow “Leading with Conviction” (2018), and was invited into the American Enterprise Institute’s Leadership Network (2019).
During the COVID-19 pandemic (2020), Dirk built relationships with food suppliers and distributed, door-to-door, over $700,000 in nourishment to system impacted people and families facing food insecurity.
Dirk finished a Nonprofit Leadership program at the Harvard Kennedy School, as he remains driven to open access to quality postsecondary education and transition support for all underserved prisoners in America to break the cycle of re-incarceration and homelessness. At the PSF, Dirk recently built partnerships with Coding Dojo, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon to offer a coding bootcamp free of charge to system impacted people with an aptitude of working in the tech industry. The average salary of graduates is over $90K.
We talked about the following and other items
Spending 15 years in prison
Prison Scholar Fund
Running a non profit
How he was able to fund raise while still a prisoner
The process to apply for the Prison Scholar Fund
Dirk’s Social Media
Dirk’s Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dirk-vanvelzen/
Dirk’s Email: email@example.com
Prison Scholar Fund Website: https://www.prisonscholars.org/
Prison Scholar Fund Twitter: https://twitter.com/prisonscholars