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Dirk Van Velzen

Dirk is passionate about prisoner education. While incarcerated himself, through distance education, he graduated in the upper 1% of his class at Penn State, with degrees in Business Administration and Organizational Leadership. Seeing that many others would walk a similar path, Dirk founded the Prison Scholar Fund (PSF) and from behind bars raised $60,000, enough funds to support 110 incarcerated students. The impact has been outstanding: only 2.7% of the 74 released students have been in trouble with the law, compared to a national recidivism rate of 68%.

After he was released from prison, Dirk graduated from a Nonprofit Management certificate program at the University of Washington, won first place in the SVP Fast Pitch competition, returned from the Stanford Graduate School of Business Executive Program in Social Entrepreneurship, and was a finalist in the Classy Awards for innovative nonprofits. Next on Dirk’s To-Do list: open access to postsecondary education for all underserved inmates in America.

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