Announcing 2017 TTEF Scholars!

We have concluded our 2017 scholarship application cycle and have made the following selections and awards:

  1. Scholar No. 1 has been in prison for 3.5 years and has about 6 years left on his prison terms.  He is 22-years old.  He is taking Community College of Rhode Island (“CCRI”) classes offered at the Rhode Island Department of Corrections (“RIDOC”) and is also a tutor for some of the education programs there.  His plan is to get an A.A. degree from CCRI and to take correspondence courses from Adams State University towards a B.A. degree, both while incarcerated.  He will be the first in his family to graduate from college.

He plans to use his $1,000 award towards courses from Adams State University.

  1. Scholar No. 2 is scheduled to be released late this year or early next year.  He is 39-years old and has been incarcerated for a large part of his life.  While in prison he has taken several CCRI classes and has a 4.0 GPA in those classes.  He plans to continue his studies at CCRI upon release, planning to get an AS in Computer Studies and Information Processing.  Afterwards, he will transfer to either Rhode Island College or the University of Rhode Island to continue his studies.  He will be the first in his family to attend college.

I think the following statement from him precisely illustrates the importance of providing educational opportunities for people in prison:

“I truly believe that education will be the most significant determining factor of my successful reintegration and future economic, family and communal support.  Any financial and motivational support you may grant me will go a long way to insuring just that.”

He plans to use his $1,000 award for tuition at CCRI upon release.

  1. Scholar No. 3 is one of two inductees to Phi Theta Kappa (“PTK”), the two-year college honor society, from the RIDOC this year.  The college coordinator at the RIDOC states that this is the first time he can remember PTK inducting members from the RIDOC.  While at the RIDOC he has earned 36 college credits and has a 3.97 GPA in college-level classes.  He has been incarcerated for 18 years and is eligible for parole in October 2022.

He plans to pursue an A.A. in Liberal Arts or a B.A. in in Theology.  He is the first is his family to attend college.

He plans to use his $1,000 award towards courses from Adams State University.

  1. Scholar No. 4 has been incarcerated for 14 years and is scheduled for release this December.  While in prison he earned a AA degree with honors from CCRI, graduating with a 3.44 GPA.  Before going to prison he was enrolled at Johnson & Wales University, earning 24 transferable credits.  Together with the credits he earned at CCRI while in prison, he has 69 college credits total that he wants to use toward a B.A. degree.  He is currently in the College Unbound (“CU”) program pursuing that goal.  At CU, he is studying Business Administration and Organizational Leadership.   However, Johnson & Wales is refusing to release his credits unless he pays approximately $2,000 he owes to the university.

He plans to use his $500 award to pay Johnson & Wales for the release of college credits.  TTEF determined that this was an eligible use of the award.

TTEF is a 501(c)3 organization and your donations are tax-deductible as allowed by law.  To support TTEF, please make a donation at this link.


TTEF Louisiana Launch

It’s Official: TTEF to begin offering scholarships for students inside Louisiana prisons, and those recently released!

This past Friday, roughly forty people from the New Orleans civil rightsimg_20170203_191123 community came together at the home of Professor Bill Quigley and his wife Debbie. They came eager to hear from Bruce Reilly, co-founder of Transcending Through Education Foundation (TTEF), about how they can help TTEF’s Louisiana Launch. The gathering was meant to gauge and generate interest, particularly because making an impact on higher education and incarceration is no small task.

“Who do you know from prison that’s gone to college? We didn’t know anybody. How do we know the blueprint? How can we can we get any sort of advice or workshops or mentorship about getting in? And I remember saying, ‘we got to set the bar as high as we can when we get out of here and that will maybe give a lot of space for other people to come in and do something else. If you get a Ph.D., someone else can come in and get a B.A.. If you get a B.A., it means someone else can get a A.A. We got to do big
things.,’” Reilly said to the crowd, after about 45 minutes of socializing. Many of the crowd were not new to the strugglesfile_001 imprisoned and released scholars face. Norris Henderson (VOTE), Albert Woodfox (Angola 3), Dolfinette Martin (VOTE) and Calvin Duncan (Rising Foundations) are several of the guests who learned for themselves that no bars can contain the thirst for learning. Two others, coincidentally, are set to enroll in law school this fall- just like the original founders of TTEF.

The event raised several thousand dollars which will go directly towards scholarship funds. As TTEF’s new coordinator Annie Freitas explained, “We expect to be accepting applications in Louisiana around summertime. By the end of 2017, our goal is not only to start awarding scholarships, but also to set up workshops in prisons, and once folks get home, about how to access higher education here. We also will be providing direct services and mentorship to make sure people are successful, because we all know that money is just one of many obstacles people face when pursuing higher education.

Guests at the event included lawyers, professors, doctors, and artists, about a quarter
of whom were formerly incarcerated. Many made a commitment to support in one or more of the four ways available: (1) Reading and scoring scholarship applications, (2) Connecting and promoting TTEF’s applications throughout the vast network of Louisiana’s prisons, jails, and released people, (3) Mentoring, based on their personal accomplishments to overcome barriers to education, and (4) Donating to the foundation.

file_006The event was appropriately held at the Quigleys, where they typically host a National Lawyers Guild’s annual law student “dis-orientation.” In 2011, Bruce Reilly was first entering Tulane Law School and attended the event just a few days prior to the turmoil he faced for pursuing higher education. Today, Bruce is the deputy director of Voice of the Experienced (VOTE) and Bill Quigley is the lead attorney in VOTE v. Louisiana, a voting rights lawsuit Bruce spearheaded.

“Every day I’m reminded that this is where I need to be,” Bruce explains. “When you’re trying to figure out how we can reach back and support others out on a limb… and then find yourself sitting on a couch sharing strategies on law school studying with a woman who spent nearly twenty years in a cage. Wow, that’s inspiring. Just to sense the strength in her bones.”

Anyone interested in working with TTEF, whether in Louisiana, Rhode Island, or beyond, can contact us through our website, or by emailing

File_002.jpegWe would like to thank New Orleans Rum Company, Reginellis, and Urban South Brewery for their support.

Donate now to help TTEF provide additional scholarships behind the walls!

Our Story

What is Transcending Through Education Foundation (TTEF)?

A non-profit organization which provides resources and support for incarcerated individuals in Rhode Island state prisons to obtain higher education. About 95% of incarcerated individuals get out of prison, but about 60% of them go back without rehabilitation. It has been seen that education drives down recidivism and gives individuals a better chance to lead better lives and give back to their community. Indeed, TTEF believes that individuals can transcend their current circumstances through the pursuit of education.

Donate HERE through our Generosity campaign.

TTEF provides scholarships to both individuals who are (1) pursuing education while incarcerated as well as (2) individuals who are transitioning out of incarceration with the goal of pursuing education upon release. The organization provides mentorship, counseling, study skills and habits workshops, financial aid and money management workshops, and most importantly scholarship money to help get the education process started for these deserving individuals. With $5,000, TTEF can help support the education of five beneficiaries.

For more information:


Who are the men and women we are helping?

Here are some inspiring stories:

(1) An incarcerated man who has incredible self-drive and motivation. He has earned college credits while incarcerated with the goals of finishing his bachelor’s degree upon release. He is pursuing a business degree so that he can ultimately open his own restaurant. He wished to cultivate a community establishment that hires, trains, and mentors formerly incarcerated individuals. All of his work is geared toward helping and mentoring others as his way to give back and share the many life lessons he has learned. He has received praise from prison staff for his mentorship of other inmates.

(2) An individual who has earned 21 credits while incarcerated from Community College of Rhode Island with a 3.5 gpa. Has enrolled and completed over 20 educational programs offered to inmates. This man has used his love for writing and literature to turn his life around. He uses his stories to convey positivity and influence others. He wants to prevent other young people from becoming trapped in a negative spiral like he was.

(3) A father with a young son at home who is trying to use his incarceration time as best he can to pave the way for a better life for his family when he is released. Believes that education can open future doors for him and serve as a tool he can use to give back. Desires to help other’s in order to make up for the bad choices he has made. Begun a degree in general education studies and wished to teach other’s so that through education they can better their lives and avoid making the same mistakes he made.

(4) An incarcerated woman who felt she had no guidance as a troubled youth. Wants to change this scenario for future generations and is pursuing a career as a counselor for adolescents. Currently enrolled in classes at the Community College of Rhode Island. She wants to complete her degree once released and open a private practice focused on mentoring and assisting troubled youth in the community.

Please consider making a donation to our Generosity campaign today!

2016 TTEF Awards

Dear TTEF supporters,

We write to let you know that we recently made our annual TTEF awards, thanks to your support and generosity!

We are awarding four scholarships this year.  All of the award winners are pursuing or will pursue college degrees—two at Adams State University, one at the Community College of Rhode Island, and one at place to be determined.

  • Recipient No. 1 has been awarded a $1,000 scholarship. He plans on using his award to pursue a bachelor’s degree at Adams State University while incarcerated.
  • Recipient No. 2.  has been awarded a $1,000 scholarship.  He will soon be released from the Rhode Island Training School and will inform us where he will begin his studies.
  • Recipient No. 3 has been awarded a $500 grant.  He plans on using his grant to purse an associate’s degree at the Community College of Rhode Island while incarcerated.
  • Recipient No. 4 has been awarded a $500 grant.  He plans on using his grant to purse a bachelor’s degree at Adams State University.

We thank you for your past and continued support!

Some Stories on Formerly Incarcerated People Who Graduated This Year From Institutions of Higher Learning

We at TTEF are heartened to read stories like those listed below noting the accomplishments of formerly incarcerated people who graduated from institutions of higher education this past graduation cycle.  There were more, and we send congratulations to all graduates who were formerly incarcerated!

From Columbia:

From UC Berkeley:

From University of Maine:

Dress Down Day at Providence City Hall to Support TTEF


Today, Mayor Elorza in Providence invited City Hall employees to take part in a Dress Down Day with a minimum $1 donation to help raise funds for TTEF.

We very much appreciate Mayor Elorza and the employees of City Hall for their support, and thank them.

TTEF is in its fourth year of holding workshops detailing the college application process inside Rhode Island prisons, awarding scholarships to people in prison or transitioning out of prison who are pursuing higher education, and providing mentors to our awardees.

Please consider supporting TTEF.  You can do so here.

TTEF Updates as 2015 Enters the Holiday Season


Dear TTEF Supporters,

As 2015 begins to wind down, we write about several items. First, we want to wish you a happy upcoming holiday season. We also write to thank you for all of the support you have given TTEF over the last three years.

Because of those efforts, we have been able to support the higher education efforts of 11 individuals by collectively awarding them almost $10,000 in scholarship and grant money. Due to your support, we have also been able to conduct yearly workshops about applying to college with a criminal record across the facilities at the Rhode Island Department of Corrections (“RIDOC”) that have reached hundreds of individuals. Also, for some awardees, we have been able to pair them up with mentors so that they have someone they can reach out to for advice as they navigate their higher education journey.

We have been able to do this despite not having any paid staff—in other words, with all-volunteer officers and board members. Soon, however, TTEF plans to embark on a fundraising campaign to, among other things, be able to hire its first staff member. The staff member will help us coordinate and expand our programming (Rhode Island and into other states) and also help us solidify our funding streams and seek out new ones.

We hope you will consider supporting TTEF, including in any of the following, as we begin our fundraising campaign:

  • Donating to TTEF via its updated website.
  • Simply go to the website and click on the “Support Us” tab at the bottom right have of the screen or on the “donate” tab across the top of the screen.
  • When you click on the “Support Us” tab, besides donating, you will also be able to click on the “Shop to Support” icon which will provide links to your favorite online shopping websites, such as Amazon, Target, and many others. If you access these stores via our website, a small percentage of any purchase you make will be donated to TTEF.

If you are able to support TTEF in any of the above ways, or in any other ways you can think of, we thank you in advance.

We also write to give you two more updates. As noted in a previous blog post, TTEF presented at the National Conference of Higher Education in Prison at the University of Pittsburgh. The conference brought together organizations and individuals from across the country that work to develop and bring higher education opportunities to people in prison. This provided TTEF with a great opportunity to profile its programming to other organizations. TTEF’s presentation was well-received, and we hope to build on the connections we made to further collective efforts to expand higher education programming for people in prison.

Lastly, TTEF will be conducting our yearly workshops at the RIDOC this December.