From left are Madera Unified School District Superintendent Edward Gonzalez, Scholarship Recipient Adolfo Aguilera, Madera Unified School District Gang Intervention Officer Lawrence Fernandez, Scholarship Recipient Armando Mejia, Warden Raythel Fisher, Jr., Lt. Ron Ladd, Lt. Richard Warren, and Madera Unified School District Board President Al Galvez.

From left are Madera Unified School District Superintendent Edward Gonzalez, Scholarship Recipient Adolfo Aguilera, Madera Unified School District Gang Intervention Officer Lawrence Fernandez, Scholarship Recipient Armando Mejia, Warden Raythel Fisher Jr., Lt. Ron Ladd, Lt. Richard Warren, and Madera Unified School District Board President Al Galvez.

By Lt. Ronald Ladd, AA/Public Information Officer
Valley State Prison

Valley State Prison (VSP) recently provided two $1,500 scholarships to deserving Madera Unified School District High School students who successfully participated in Valley State Prison’s Re-Direct Youth Diversionary Program (RYD).

VSP’s Re-Direct Youth Diversionary Program was established in 2014 to bring at-risk young men into VSP to meet and talk with inmate mentors with similar demographics and backgrounds. The inmate mentors demonstrate the realities and consequences of criminal thinking and poor decision making that resulted in their incarceration.

The RYD scholarship was established through the generosity of the inmate leisure time activity group members at the request of RYD mentors to financially help students pursue higher education through funds for expenses such as tuition, books and boarding. The RYD program collaborates with Madera Unified School District, Madera County Behavioral Health and Madera County Probation Departments to provide students with positive goals and alternative pro-social outlets while encouraging education.

In order to be considered, the students were required to submit an application; show attendance at a school or program that participates in RYD; enroll or plan to enroll in a college or a vocational program; improve school citizenship; and reduce negativity such as fighting, vandalism, gang activity, truancy, etc. They were required to show involvement in positive extracurricular activities such as sports, community programs, volunteer work or church. The students were also required to explain how RYD influenced their decision to pursue higher education, how RYD positively changed their personal and family life, and career choices. Finally, they had to obtain recommendations from a teacher or school official and parent or guardian.

“The objective was to establish a scholarship fund as an incentive for individuals making the positive changes the Re-Direct Youth Diversionary Program encourages. We did not want these young men to participate in the program and feel they had been forgotten about at the end of the day,” said Warden Raythel Fisher, Jr. “The inmate mentors and staff sponsors wanted to create a fund which continues annually as long as the program endures. It provides the inmates an avenue to give back to the community by assisting young men who were successful in diverting themselves from the negative path they were on and pursue higher education.”