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 rights 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 struggles 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.
The 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 Annie@transcendingthrougheducation.org.
We would like to thank New Orleans Rum Company, Reginellis, and Urban South Brewery for their support.