Dirk Van Velzen
Dirk is passionate about prisoner education. While incarcerated he earned two business degrees through distance education and graduated in the upper 1% of his class at Penn State. Hoping to set other incarcerated people on the same path, Dirk founded the Prison Scholar Fund (PSF) and from behind bars raised enough funds to support 110 incarcerated students. The impact has been outstanding: only 4% of the 76 released students have been reincarcerated compared to a national recidivism rate of 68%.
Released from prison in 2015, Dirk graduated from a Nonprofit Management program at the University of Washington; 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 been accepted into the inaugural cohort of musician John Legend’s “Unlocked Futures” accelerator program, next on Dirk’s to-do list is opening access to postsecondary education for all underserved inmates in America to break the cycle of reincarceration and homelessness.