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College Guild's
First Annual Report

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Dear Friend and Supporter,

Founded in 2001, College Guild continues to hold true to its singular mission:

To provide free correspondence education to

incarcerated people that connects them

to a community beyond prison walls, fostering

mutual respect through a shared passion for learning.

Since 2001, because of the generosity of donors and volunteers, we have offered our courses to more than 15,000 individuals.

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A very big thank you to our donors!

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Your support means the world to our students all over the country.

THANK YOU!!

Your donations over the years have been used to reach people in prison all over the US. From our small office in Brunswick, Maine, your support allows us to offer enrollment and courses to thousands of individuals every year.

As a donor you may have received a thank you note from a student who is a member of our Thank You Committee. These are individuals who are or have been students and want to do whatever they can to help College Guild. Have you received one of these letters?

 

Because you care and support this work, we have students who are publishing books, winning poetry awards, learning to draw and express themselves and discovering they can learn, grow and dream of a better life when released.

 

Your support continues to be needed more than ever.

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by Wyatt

Twenty-three years later, why is College Guild still needed? Because mass incarceration hasn't gone away...

The year 2023 marks the 50th year since the U.S. prison population began its unprecedented surge.

The United States is unparalleled historically in its use of prison sentences and ranks among the highest worldwide in its dependence on incarceration. Over five million people in total are under supervision by the criminal legal system. 

 

Nearly two million people, disproportionately Black, are living in prisons and jails instead of their communities.

 

Compare this to the figures of the early 1970s when this count was 360,000.

https://www.sentencingproject.org/reports/mass-incarceration-trends

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1 in 2 adults in America has had a family member in jail or prison.

1 in 4 has had a sibling incarcerated.

1 in 5 has had a parent incarcerated.

1 in 7 has had a spouse or life partner incarcerated.

1 in 8 has had a child incarcerated.

https://everysecond.fwd.us/#chapter1-11

2021 - Our 20th Anniversary Year

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In 2021, Marian Dalton, a long time CG volunteer, former board member and donor, volunteered to go through 20 years of board minutes! She created this timeline of how College Guild has developed over the years.

She also found a gem that has been in front of my eyes ever since.

 

It says:

We are not teaching a subject, rather teaching life skills and new attitudes. The subject is a tool to lead CG students to relate their lives to the outside world.

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Anchor 1

To view the 2001-2021 timeline up close, click here.

 

2021 was also the year Julie Zimmerman, our founder, retired. We celebrated Julie's generosity and body of work with a Zoom event attended by 50 or so people from all over the world. She is a much loved woman!!

We were still working from home and doing one person at a time in the office due to Covid. It was the first year we had real success with grants! We won $44,000 in grants including a partnership with Unum Corporation providing their staff across the country with the opportunity to volunteer to support this work. Additionally we received pandemic funding which helped us tremendously.

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The long time logo of College Guild drawn by a former student.

A Theory of Change and its impact...

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During 2021, the board chartered The Theory of Change Committee to take a deep look at the impacts we make in the world.

We asked ourselves: How does College Guild change the world?

After research, evaluation and discussion, the committee determined there are 3 ways College Guild changes the world:

  1. through our courses,

  2. our volunteers,

  3. and our students.

Since its completion, our Theory of Change has been guiding the board's work.

As a result of identifying the importance of updating and improving our curriculum in fulfilling our mission, in 2022, the board chartered a Curriculum Development Committee to tackle the work of defining a process for both evaluating and updating our courses with a focus on making them more culturally inclusive, therefore more representative of the students we serve. Many courses haven't been updated for a decade or longer.

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Then 2022 happened...

During 2022, the Curriculum Development Committee worked very hard to determine how to tackle the task of revising, updating and improving our 29 courses. Ultimately we developed 2 tools and defined a process:

  1. a Scorecard to evaluate characters/story/images for multicultural representation and

  2. a Rubric that looks at the overall score of a course by evaluating things such as...

  • does content allow for different learning styles,

  • does content support Social Justice by centering sources of knowledge, experiences, and stories around diverse and underrepresented groups of people

  • Additionally, we increased our focus on how involvement with our courses improves social and emotional learning by helping our students to improve the following skills:

  • critical thinking,

  • decision making,

  • broadening social awareness of others,

  • improving communication skills,

  • and creating a positive connection with people on the outside.

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2023

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In late 2023, we launched our first revised course based on the work of the Curriculum Development Committee in which the course on Greek Mythology was used to test our process. It became obvious that to make a course on mythology more culturally inclusive we could look at myths from other nations besides Greece. There were so many choices, but we landed on creating a course we now call World Mythology with units on the Greeks, China, Egypt, Ghana and the Mayans.

A Bates College intern, Aaliyah Moore developed the initial new units, the Committee did further revisions, and the process of final edits and formatting was done by a Bowdoin College intern, Noemi Guzman.

 

Jenna Bergstraesser, a volunteer Reader, created the artwork for the course which meets a specific need we have. Artwork must be black and white line drawings because mail to people in prison is often photocopied. Highly colored and shadowed images don't translate very well when photocopied. Our new images should stand up well to that process so our students can enjoy them and the richness they add to the content of the course.

We currently have 2 volunteer Course Writers. One is working on a new course and the other is revising an old course.

During the summer of 2024, we will have 2 interns working on revising courses, one from Bowdoin College and one from Bates College. It's very exciting to see this process coming to fruition with old courses being updated and made relevant to the needs of todays students.

Our Program consists of 29 courses developed by volunteers, 3 part-time staff, 12 volunteer board members, 5 office volunteers, 300 volunteer Readers, and 600 students!

Learn more about volunteering at College Guild!

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We serve people in prison in all 50 states.

Requests to Enroll Skyrocket in 2023!

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Utah State Prison - Wikipedia

During the month of July, 2023, we sent out a survey to approximately 150 students. We received 135 back. Here are some things we learned from their responses.

How are people in prison hearing about College Guild?

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We learned that the majority of our students have a little time left to serve or very long or life sentences.

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This graph represents the responding students racial heritage.

People of color are 44% of the respondents, while the remaining 56% identify as white. It’s no surprise that people of color — who face much greater rates of poverty and poor education — are dramatically overrepresented in the nation’s prisons and jails. These racial disparities are particularly stark for Black Americans, who make up 35% of the prison and jail populations but only 14% of all U.S residents.

 

Ninety-one percent of students gave our courses high marks for satisfaction.

Most have a high school diploma, some have done college work and many have a GED.

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For the first time in 3 years, we are going back to a waitlist starting May 1, 2024.

 

The number of requests to enroll has overwhelmed our small resources. We hope to open enrollments up again in the fall.

Help us eliminate the wait list?

DONATE NOW

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We remain unaccredited, non-religious and non-traditional in our approach to our courses.

Being non-accredited keeps our costs low but also means anyone with an interest in working with justice impacted people can participate as a Reader. If we became accredited, we would be required to have certified teachers responding to student work and the costs would be huge. It would severely limit the number of students we can serve and limit the impact we can have in communities because there wouldn't be volunteer Readers telling their family and friends about this work and its importance.

2023 Financials

We started the year with $116,837 in the bank. We raised an additional $141,273 and took $30,000 in reserve funds to cover cash flow. We ended the year in the red but fortunately have a full year and a half of operating funds in our reserve account.

 

I ALSO want to point out the impact of volunteer Readers. The inkind donations of volunteer time and talent was worth $188,000 in services in 2023! These are the almost 300 volunteer Readers, our volunteer Board of Directors, and office volunteers. These people are the engine that powers College Guild and enables us to reach so many people in prison annually. THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH!!

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2023 Funding - we started the year with $116,837 in the bank. We raised an additional $141,273 and took $30,000 in reserve funds to cover cash flow. We ended the year in the red but fortunately have a full year and a half of operating funds in our reserve account.

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2023 Expenses totaled $207,429.00.

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At The Office -
Staff and Volunteers make the magic happen!

College Guild, for a long time ,was seen as just a small grass roots organization hidden in Brunswick, ME all the while quietly providing free education to people in prison in all 50 states.

Over the last 6 years, we've grown to have 12 board members in 6 states, donors across the country, volunteer readers all over the USA and in Canada, South America and Europe. And our students continue to come from all across the country.

 

College Guild has grown to be a national organization with its home office in Brunswick, ME. In the office, which is our own very busy mail room, staff and volunteers process thousands of pieces of incoming and outgoing mail every year, along with thousands of emails to volunteer Readers who provide feedback on student work.

 

Our program manager, Tracey Mousseau, keeps those trains running on time, managing 300 volunteers, orientations for new volunteers and reads each piece of reader feedback. Her capacity to keep details straight is amazing and as program manager she wants to continue to find ways to improve our program.

 

Our administrative assistant, Beth Miller, helps to process student mail and does mounds of data entry for enrollment requests and new students, does the work so every envelope going out to a student is accurately addressed (many people in prison are often moved) and always goes above and beyond to help College Guild meet its mission.

Currently we have 5 dedicated office volunteers - Richard Miller (yes, Beth's husband) has been helping since Beth had an accident and broke her shoulder in 2019. He picks up mail multiple times a week, sorting it, tracking mail going out along with postage and getting the outgoing mail to the post office.

Patty and Sally have been office volunteers since long before I (Mary) arrived at College Guild. They tackle multiple tasks including packaging dictionaries to be mailed to students, preparing enrollment packets to go out, doing an active student count monthly and so much more. Our newest office volunteers, Nina and Jim, read all student units prior to their being scanned and assigned to a Reader and are picking up other tasks as they become more comfortable with volunteering.

It's an amazing and determined team of people keeping our founder's vision going - to always keep our courses free to our students.

2024 is here... our executive director transition is in the works... and new board members bring special insights

This year College Guild has continued to grow by inviting two individuals to join our board who are currently incarcerated here in Maine. Darlene George and Victoria Scott are talented, smart and vocal about the importance of education in prison. They join our board meetings via Zoom (as all our board members do) and are already making a big impact in helping with the work of moving the organization forward, while bringing important insights to how we approach our work.

 

More big news for 2024 is that I am retiring on May 22nd. I'm very pleased to share that a new and well qualified executive director has been found. More information will be coming very soon as we prepare for a transition.

 

Working at College Guild has been a truly wonderful experience. As my 4th time in an ED role with various organizations, I'm proud to have been at the helm to help this organization extend its reach and its impact. To you as a donor, plus the board, staff, volunteers and students, thank you for making this experience special.

 

My biggest thanks to each of you for supporting this work. This is the last time I'll be asking, but I hope you'll make the biggest donation that you can to support this work.

Please share this report with friends, family and your community.

Help us spread the word about College Guild. The demand is enormous and more people need to know how much people in prison need our support and encouragement and the opportunity to develop a passion for learning while cultivating respect for themselves and others.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

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College Guild

P.O. Box 696, Brunswick, ME 04011

 

(207)-729-0043

www.collegeguild.org

info@collegeguild.org

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