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“Justice is the sum of all    moral duty.” 
             William Godwin

“He who opens a school    door, closes a prison.”
                   Victor Hugo

“Power concedes nothing  without a demand. It never  did and it never will.” 
             Frederick Douglass 

SHEPHERD Foundation is rooted in justice for rare cancer patients. We exist to challenge the status quo. We believe that survival should not be determined by your skin color, age, zip code, income, or specific cancer diagnosis. We approach every day armed with our principles and a sense of urgency because we understand what is at stake: lives. In an effort to thread this fierce fight for justice throughout the fabric of our organization, we are introducing the SHEPHERD Justice Lab

To launch this initiative we are fundraising for a new role: the SHEPHERD Justice Fellow, to creatively increase SHEPHERD Foundation’s team capacity. SHEPHERD will fill this vital role by partnering with Bard Prison Initiative (BPI), an organization dedicated to providing a college education to those in prison. By combining forces with BPI, we will have a proven partner and pipeline to effect change for those exiting the prison system and transitioning into productive lives on the outside. The annual program cost for each fellow is $100,000, which would cover their salary, health and wellness benefits, and program administration.

Why this approach? Because there is a distinct intersection between the rare cancer system and the prison system. One metric to evaluate a healthcare system is how it cares for its most vulnerable - prisoners are among the most underserved population in the United States. Cancer is also the leading cause of death in federal prison. Despite being among the only U.S. citizens with a constitutional right to health care, prisoners' experiences parallel many rare cancer patients. For example, they are disproportionately poor, racial and ethnic minority groups, and often isolated, disempowered, and unable to advocate for themselves and access the care they need.

At SHEPHERD we have learned that in order to drive solutions for systemic injustices, one must first deeply understand the issue, use this knowledge to drive policy reform by building a supportive coalition and tell the human stories of those most affected. That is why our principal objective of this fellowship is to give the recipient access to a breadth of knowledge and experience in four main areas: research, policy, advocacy

and storytelling.

SHEPHERD, together with select partners, aims to provide the fellow with the professional development and networking tools necessary to enter the workforce and step into a change-making position. For SHEPHERD, this initiative affords us the opportunity to advance our rare cancer mission, based on the fellow's research and relationship building, in an impactful way. Our overarching goal is to work to break down and rebuild a system that leaves far too many neglected and marginalized while simultaneously helping to create future thought leaders.

Programs like these are rare, but the barriers and reentry challenges those previously incarcerated face are not. They are profiled, stigmatized, and turned away from opportunities simply because of their past. For rare cancer patients translational research and access to care often leaves them underrepresented and ignored. With the SHEPHERD Justice Fellowship, our goal is to revolutionize systems that have left far too many forgotten - because survival should not be a privilege - but a human right.

rewriting the narrative with our partner


The Bard Prison Initiative extends the full breadth and depth of the Bard College liberal arts curriculum into six New York State prisons. BPI creates and protects academic spaces where students and faculty engage in ambitious college coursework, challenge one another intellectually, and build supportive community.

Students undergo a selective admission process, enroll full-time in the same courses that they would on Bard’s main campus, are held to the same high standards as all Bard College students, and graduate with Bard College degrees. BPI students discover new strengths and direction that often fundamentally alter their relationship to themselves, their communities, and the world in which we live.


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