Cards, Community, and Connection: THEI’s Seventh Annual Holiday Card Party

Tennessee Higher Education Initiative (THEI) hosted its seventh annual Holiday Card Party on December 8, 2023, at Ogburn House, marking the largest turnout in the event's history. Amidst the festive atmosphere, staff, alumni, community partners, donors, and friends gathered to inscribe messages of hope and solidarity onto cards destined for incarcerated students enrolled in THEI's programs behind prison walls.

This event transcends the typical holiday gathering; it symbolizes a profound connection that bridges the gap between those inside correctional facilities and the community outside. 

Amidst the festivities, THEI also took the opportunity to introduce Ogburn House—an upcoming sanctuary and community residence dedicated to THEI students in their educational pursuits and transitioning from incarceration. Scheduled to open its doors following an Open House event on January 12th at 6:00 PM, Ogburn House stands as a haven where individuals can focus on their studies and personal growth in a supportive environment.

Voices of Impact

Key figures at THEI, including Executive Director Dr. Laura Ferguson-Mimms and esteemed alumni turned staff members Brandon Adams and Sammy Sammartino, addressed attendees during the Holiday Card Party. Their poignant words resonated deeply, highlighting the profound impact of these holiday cards. For many incarcerated students, receiving these cards represents a beacon of connection and solidarity amidst a challenging time, where the holiday season amplifies feelings of isolation.

Brandon and Sammy, both recipients of holiday cards during their time incarcerated, shared personal narratives that spoke volumes about the significance of this initiative. These cards, often the only mail received by incarcerated individuals throughout the year, transcend mere paper and ink. They symbolize a reminder of their place within a supportive community and a testament to the belief that education and humanity endure despite the challenges of incarceration.

A Testament to Support and Community

Through events like the Holiday Card Party, THEI reaffirms its commitment to recognizing the humanity and rights of individuals within the prison system. Beyond providing education, THEI strives to foster a sense of support and community, acknowledging that incarcerated individuals are not defined by their circumstances and will one day reintegrate as valued neighbors and coworkers.

THEI's seventh annual Holiday Card Party transcended the boundaries of celebration to embody the essence of empathy, support, and community. As THEI continues its unwavering dedication to incarcerated individuals' education and well-being, these events serve as a reminder to everyone involved that humanity endures, irrespective of the confines of incarceration.