David, adorned in blue pants and a blue shirt, black shoes and white socks, is a first-year student at Calvin College. He is beginning his pursuit of a bachelor’s degree as a member of the Class of 2020 inside the Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility in Ionia, Michigan.
The Calvin Prison Initiative gives 20 inmates each year the opportunity to begin pursuing a bachelor of arts degree in ministry leadership. The students take classes in ministry and theology as well as Calvin’s liberal arts core courses.
“God is transforming lives in amazing ways in prison,” said David Rylaarsdam, professor of historical theology at Calvin Theological Seminary. “Calvin wants to join the church behind bars, not only to help it to grow but to change prison culture.”
Dozens of institutions offer courses to inmates, some the opportunity to get an associate’s degree, but very few offer a four-year accredited bachelor’s degree like Calvin’s new accredited program does.
And the students are full of gratitude: “I was wandering aimlessly with no purpose until Calvin,” said Armondo. “This program shows that God is of second, third and fifth chances,” added Raymond.
“Calvin is helping me fulfill my mission in life,” said Patrick. “It’s marvelous the act of grace that they did for us.”