Recording artists Usher, Harry Belafonte,  journalist George Wills all three in the same room at sing sing prison. I would think it’s safe to say that doesn’t happen every day. this was though,  a very special day they were all there for the Hudson Link College graduation this week. now in fact eighteen years Hudson link has awarded nearly five hundred degrees through seven local colleges. It has also helped people who get out of prison stay out of prison so they can leave productive lives. our own Dominic Carter was there and he joins us now:

“Well Richard it was quite a remarkable program and it’s all done with no taxpayer dollars involved all privately funded. Perseverance, redemption, a new beginning. A day these graduates thought was never possible.”

First for the associates in science Michael Brown:Michael Brown has spent 11 years in prison convicted of manslaughter

Michael Brown has spent 11 years in prison convicted of manslaughter

“On top of the world right now I feel great like I’m not even in prison right now, like im a successful person that got a degree.” – Michael Brown

But this day is also very much about the tremendous pride of the families, which has been a long time coming. Brown’s mother lives on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

“Mrs. Roman you’ve come to this prison every two weeks for the last 11 years, you were not going to give up on your son, now how do you feel today.”

“I feel very proud very proud of him I’m glad that he accomplished something” – Michael Brown’s Mom

“You can see here I’m going to look teary-eyed I’m my mother’s only child so the relationship we have is like anomalies, I live to make her proud you know I made the wrong decision I came to prison but she would agree I was able to right that wrong in some form of fashion at least in her eyes you know what I mean and mother’s are priceless man, especially mine.” said Michael Brown

“are you going to end up coming back here?” asked Dominic Carter.

“God willing no.” answered Micahel Brown.

The graduates are part of the program Hudson link which has been quite successful and grown in tremendous popularity.

Sean Pica is the executive director: “It’s our single largest graduating class and the largest graduating class new york’s department of corrections. Very exciting 36 men receiving AA and BA degrees for versatility what we’ve seen over the past 17 years and students go through this program return to their communities and do very very important thing to become role models but the most important piece is they don’t come back to prison and that’s all that’s the goal of all of us that we coordinate a program that runs in this prison system to make better men and women.”

Dominic: you’ve been at Mercy College for approximately three years and you have been at this graduation every single year why is this so important to you?

Timothy Hall, Mercy College President: Well and if one thing this graduation is just like our regular graduation we are granting degrees to these men who’ve earned those degrees and I’m the one who presents the degrees that our regular ceremony so it’s unthinkable that I wouldn’t be here to present these degrees to these men who’ve earned degree. I’m also here just because what we’re doing in this institution is right at the heart of what Mercy stands for we’ve always had a mission of trying to draw provide educational opportunities to students who might not have had those opportunities otherwise.”

At each Hudson Link graduation, major names attend the ceremony.  this year was no different, longtime Hudson link supporter Harry Belafonte brought along his pal Usher...(to be continued)