Dirk Van Velzen
Founder and Executive Director, Prison Scholar Fund (2006-current) Seattle, WA
Dirk is passionate about prisoner education. While incarcerated himself, through distance education, he earned two business degrees, graduating in the upper 1% of his class at Penn State. 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 4% of the 74 released students have been reincarcerated, compared to a national recidivism rate of 68%. Released from prison in 2015, and with critical support from the Post-Prison Education Program, Dirk graduated from a Nonprofit Management program at the University of Washington. Afterwards, Dirk won first place in the Social Venture Partners Fast Pitch business plan competition, rocked the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Executive Program in Social Entrepreneurship, and was a finalist in the Classy Awards for innovative nonprofits in 2016 and 2017. Having completed the Points of Light Civic Accelerator in 2017, and accepted into the first cohort of musician John Legend’s “Unlocked Futures” accelerator program, next on Dirk’s To-Do list is to open access to postsecondary education for all underserved students in America.