NEW YORK (PIX11) — A formerly incarcerated mom from the Bronx inspires hundreds of others to finish college and enter the workforce.

Denise Roman, 37, from the Bronx, grew up in foster care, had a child when she was 15 and was in prison for ten years. She said her life was going in a downward spiral. Yet, she never gave up hope she could have the courage to turn her life around. With the help of her community, she did.

Roman was 18 and struggled to find opportunities to thrive without a high school or college degree. However, Roman said when she went to prison at 20, she decided to commit to her future and her education behind bars. In prison, at 30, she could finish her high school and college degrees.  

When Roman returned to the Bronx with her daughter, there were more obstacles. With the help of a program called the Bard Prison Initiative. The program helped 300 men and women in prison attend college each year. 

Roman now has her dream job at the Ford Foundation. Five years ago, her boss Kamilah Duggins saw a need to help people like Roman. So Duggins started a fellowship program at the Ford Foundation. Each year, it gives five Bard graduates paid positions and job training.