The spring season is an important time for college applicants, with essays to be written and due dates arising. This flurry is no different for incarcerated students. The Transcending Through Education Foundation (“TTEF”) is pleased to announce the opening of their third scholarship application window, and excited to discover more students seeking assistance in pursuit of higher education, whether they live behind prison walls or are on the journey back to society.
Higher education is the most effective manner to ensure someone finds promising opportunities following a conviction. The federal government recently clarified that the ban on Pell Grants for incarcerated people does not apply to over 60,000 people in juvenile facilities. The Department of Education believes this may offer support to roughly 4,000 young people with a GED or high school diploma. This clarification was part of the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice’s Guiding Principles for Providing High-Quality Education in Juvenile Justice Secure Care Settings. The government is showing collaborative leadership from its Federal Interagency Reentry Council, which can and should be modeled on the state level.
A new report by The Center for Community Alternatives, Boxed Out: Criminal History Screening and College Application Attrition, explains just how challenging it is for people with criminal histories to access higher education. These challenges often deter people from even reaching a point where a committee determines their eligibility. As a recent article explains, even when universities in the New York state system try not to discriminate, applicants feel otherwise.
In California, the James Irvine Foundation has recognized the important contribution of the Prison University Project (PUP), providing executive director Jody Lewen with a 2015 Leadership Award. The recognition comes with $200,000 to support the work of providing college education from established universities in the San Francisco Bay Area. The work of PUP, the Bard College Initiative, and others serve as role models for TTEF.
TTEF began as a bold idea of three formerly incarcerated men who wanted to give back by providing college scholarships and mentorships to people in prison or transitioning out of prison. Andres Idarraga, Noah Kilroy, and Bruce Reilly pooled their resources to do so, and created workshops based on their experiences applying to college. Dozens of their colleagues have provided further resources, and the Foundation is poised to take another leap forward by creating a full-time staff position and increasing its reach.
Over the past year, TTEF has expanded its board, supported additional scholars, given multiple workshops, and Andres presented a compelling Tedx presentation. Most importantly, TTEF serves as a touchstone for many on, or trying to join, a pathway to a productive life.
Please also consider supporing TTEF by clicking here and making a donation.