Supporting incarcerated students

Video transcript:

I’m a teacher for the Department of Education at Rikers Island.

My background is 35 years in the construction trades and six years now with the DOE teaching incarcerated students.

My story began with my very first student when I first started.

Gary came into my class. He was a hard worker. He loved the program so much. Gary advanced with all the federal, city, and state certifications that were required to enter the trades. 

Gary was released three years after I met him. 

Even with the certifications, he didn’t think he’d be able to make it.

So what I did was I brought him to the Carpenters Union, and Gary started working for the Carpenters Union and became an excellent lead framer.

Gary wound up working for one specific company. Gary’s company paid for him to go to Kansas City. They paid for his housing, and they take good care of him now. He loves his job.

That pushed me to say, why not try to give this to every student that I possibly can?

That also drove me to create a direct access program.

Once they graduate that six-week program, they automatically become a union member and get dispatched to their first paying job. Because everybody deserves a second and a third chance in life.

And if I can stretch this program as far as California, I think that would be a dream come true, knowing that people are starting to utilize it.

–James “Shoppy” Foster
Carpentry/OSHA Instructor at East River Academy
Rikers Island and East Elmhurst, New York

Want to know how you can support James and his students?
Please contact Kat and I’ll connect you with him!

This video is one of 20 teacher interviews created to encourage the general public to #passthe🎤 to a teacher. You can view all video interviews here, on YouTube, on Facebook, or on Instagram Reels.