At University California-Berkeley, two ex-cons started the Underground Scholars Initiative, which supports felons on campus and recruits current prisoners to apply for college.

Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

Ex-Cons Find Support at College, Struggling Coal Country Aims to Diversify Its Economy and More

Take a break from the regular news cycle and check out these NationSwell must-reads, which uncover solutions that are moving America forward.

 

Building a Prison-to-School Pipeline, The New Yorker
Former prisoners studying at the University of California-Berkeley have a complicated relationship with their classmates: In many ways, the previously incarcerated are more worldly, yet less scholarly, than younger students who enroll straight out of high school. That’s why ex-cons formed the Underground Scholars Initiative, a group of former inmates who help each other navigate Cal and recruit those still in the penitentiary to apply to college.

In Life After Coal, Appalachia Attempts to Reinvent Itself, Governing
In all of Eastern Kentucky, there are barely 4,000 coal mining jobs left, down from 30,000 positions just 15 years ago. Undercut by natural gas prices and tough environmental regulations, those in Appalachia are echoing one solution: diversification. This fall, Harlan County hired its first full-time economic development manager to drum up business — a major step on the way to rebuilding a functioning economy.

The Urban Playground That Builds Kids’ Brains, CityLab
On average, a wealthy child hears 30 million more words than a low-income peer. To reduce the gap, why not put words wherever kids are? Even at playgrounds. That’s the theory behind the illustrated sentences adorning the jungle gym at Officer Willie Wilkins Park in Oakland, Calif. “Let’s talk about sunshine,” “Let’s talk about food,” one can read on the playground, a helpful reminder nudging parents to talk with their children more.

Chris Peak is a staff writer for NationSwell. He previously worked for Newsday, the San Francisco Public Press and the Point Reyes Light. Contact him at [email protected]