Friends of the Education Justice Project (FEJP) ​​is a 501(c)3 non-profit that exists solely to raise funds for EJP. Its members fund academic scholarships for formerly incarcerated people and their family members, provide small grants to EJP alumni to help with unanticipated financial needs such as medical expenses, groceries, and bills, and support other needs. 

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, FEJP helped get soap and hand sanitizer into prisons and jails across the state of Illinois. 

With community support from FEJP, EJP can continue to aid incarcerated individuals and their families throughout Illinois. 

One of the many volunteers organizing with FEJP is its new board president, Mark Sanchez, who first joined EJP as a graduate student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Reflecting on his own beginnings with EJP, he says he first came to the organization “with a lot of questions.” He says that EJP was a great place for someone who wants to help incarcerated individuals and their families, but does not understand all the political and systemic issues tied to the prison industrial complex. 

Mark graduated in 2018 and, since leaving Urbana-Champaign, has become involved with FEJP. He says FEJP is made up entirely of volunteers.

“There are no paid positions and many of the FEJP members have other jobs or are full time students.”

To raise funds, FEJP has held events like its Virtual Fun Run this May. The weekend included a 5K, 10K and 20K that individuals could sign up for and record their progress virtually. FEJP then hosted online platforms for participants to share photos and sentiments about the event. 

FEJP is aiming for support on all fronts this coming year. Marks says he not only hopes people continue to donate and attend FEJP events, but also consider joining FEJP and fundraise with the team. “Sustainability is a big part of what we are aiming for, hoping that more folks will join us to provide material support.” 

He also highlights that FEJP wants to find new and innovative ways to support the EJP community. “We are still a young group,” Mark says, “we are still trying to find ways to communicate and fundraise as effectively as possible.” 

This holiday season, we hope you will take time to support FEJP’s efforts. You can directly support FEJP by donating to the EJP Alumni Emergency Fund here.