Fortune Academic Celebrates 10 Years!
By Claudia Cohen
The Fortune Academy, a phased-permanent supportive housing facility for formerly incarcerated men and women based in West Harlem, celebrated its Tenth Anniversary Monday evening, June 18th. The Academy is part of the Fortune Society, a community-based organization that provides wraparound services to men and women returning from prison, usually with a history of addiction, to help them to successfully reenter society and realize their potential as individuals and citizens. The Anniversary was a gala affair. Elected officials Keith Wright, Robert Jackson and Speaker Christine Quinn sent their congratulations. Speakers included Jim McGreevey, the former governor of NJ; David Rothenberg, the Fortune Society founder , and a host of alumni from the Academy who spoke about the remarkably successful lives they have created upon leaving the Academy. In the audience were ten members of the Fortune Academy Participatory Action Research (PAR) Team; co-researchers include TC-ICCCR faculty, staff and students who partner with staff, clients and executives of the Fortune Society. The ICCCR was delighted to support the PAR team’s attendance at this fundraising event.
The Academy provides housing for Fortune Society clients who would otherwise be homeless. It creates an environment – part laboratory, part family –where individuals can create a future without criminal involvement. The Academy encourages former residents to “give back”; many return as staff members in order to help others who have to go a greater distance in transforming their lives.
The PAR team is carefully documenting the culture of the Fortune Academy (e.g., philosophy, policies and practices) through a range of different methodologies (archival data; interviews; observation), and assessing the impact of the culture on the “success” of residents after leaving the Academy. There are several goals for this research: to provide data with which Fortune can strengthen what works well and improve what doesn’t; to provide a blueprint for other CBOs who want to replicate the best features of the Academy; and to create knowledge about how the Academy culture facilitates individual change (e.g., the success of the “zero tolerance for violence” policy.)
A video feed from the Anniversary event featuring the Academy’s alumni speakers will be made available to the PAR team to supplement other data they are collecting about the lives of alums (e.g., interviews ; data on outcomes, such as living arrangements, sobriety and connections in the community; criminal justice involvement; etc.)