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PbS J. Russell "Russ" Jennings Scholarship Award Recipients

They are the future owners of a farm-to-table restaurant that focuses on food that energizes the body and mind, a new eatery to be called “Boog’s Burgers” and a welding company that employs at-risk adults to help them get hands on experience. Together Memphis M., Alejandro C. and Devin S. are the first recipients of the PbS J. Russell “Russ” Jennings Scholarship Award, headed off to earn their associate degrees with PbS’ support for two years.

“I will immerse myself in my studies, strive to attain a B+ average or higher and acquire all necessary knowledge to ensure my success,” Memphis wrote in his application. Like the other young men, he has clear goals for his education and career and the values exemplified by PbS Coach Russ Jennings, for whom the award is named. He believed in brightening the futures for young people who made mistakes and the ability to change with hard work and support.

“One thing I am very passionate and caring about is people who want to seek changes and families that are seeking help. This scholarship will help me tremendously to gain the careers I need to not only help myself but also others in similar situations,” Alejandro explained.

“I would like to provide jobs for those in need and teach the youth in my community that there is a route to success no matter your circumstances,” wrote Devin. “I have always enjoyed seeing people smile and I believe I can help youth for the better before it’s too late.”

PbS began awarding scholarships to young people and staff in 2016 to encourage and support post-secondary education. Studies show the lifelong benefits of education after high school, from higher earnings to better health. PbS’ Reentry Standards highlight the need to connect young people with schools and jobs to give them real second chances and increase the likelihood they will stay out of trouble.

Last year Russ Jennings learned he had an advanced stage of cancer. He wanted to support PbS’ efforts to promote education and made a generous contribution to the PbS Education and Employment Foundation to support young people for two years to ensure they had what they needed to start and complete a post-secondary degree. The Annie E. Casey Foundation contributed funding for a second two-year scholarship and donors from across the country and Kansas, Russ’ home state, provided additional support.

Memphis will attend Fairmont State University in West Virginia this fall. Alejandro and Devin will join students at Modesto Junior College in California next spring. PbS’ Mentor, Stephen Kaplan, meets with the young men regularly, sharing what he learned from his similar experience and making sure they have the support they need to succeed.

We are very proud of all four of these young men and know Russ would be as well. We will keep you posted and invite you to help future scholars so we begin to create some equity in opportunities for young people.

Read more about:  Scholarships

About the author

Kim Godfrey Lovett

Kim Godfrey Lovett

Kim is the executive director of the PbS Learning Institute. Kim was hired when CJCA incorporated in 1994 and has worked since it's inception to create the PbS system of continuous improvement to help facilities and agencies raise the quality of life and better conditions of confinement in youth facilities nationwide. She earned two master’s degrees: in journalism (Northwestern University) and criminal justice (Northeastern University.) She worked as a newspaper reporter for seven years prior to joining CJCA.

PbS has been a partner in assisting this facility to become a dynamic work environment that is not satisfied with maintaining the status quo.