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.

Overcoming Odds, Now Helping Others

Bruce Andres NoahBy Tom Mooney

Originally Posted in The Providence Journal Jul. 25, 2015.

All three men served prison time for serious crimes. All three got out and, against insurmountable odds, graduated from law school. Two are lawyers. And now, convinced of the power of knowledge to change any life, they have formed a nonprofit foundation that provides scholarships for inmates approaching release to pursue higher education.

The Transcending Through Education Foundation was started by former inmates Andres Idarraga, Noah Kilroy and Bruce Reilly. Idarraga served several years in the Adult Correctional Institutions on drug charges. Released in 2004, he earned two degrees from Brown University before earning a law degree from Yale in 2011. He now practices complex litigation at a law firm in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Kilroy served time for various drug felonies between the ages of 16 and 23 before he was released in 2003 from a Florida prison and devoted his life to learning. He is now a lawyer and an assistant city solicitor in Providence.

Reilly served 12 years at the ACI for second-degree murder. He graduated from Tulane Law School last year and works as a writer and organizer for several social causes, including securing voting rights and employment for former offenders.

“We wanted to give back — or at least reach back — and let people know how they can do this,” said Reilly.

The foundation awards scholarships of up to $1,000 to any accredited institution for individuals who are coming out of prison determined to improve their lives. The foundation also provides mentoring services — primarily through the foundation’s three founders — to help guide ex-convicts through the college experience.

“We are filling an unmet need,” says Kilroy, noting that Congress banned Pell Grant eligibility for ex-convicts in 1994.

Kilroy says criminals should be punished, as he was, for breaking the law. “But if you really want them to stay out of prison, well, let’s make sure they have the tools to do so. In our [three] cases education stopped the criminal behavior.”

“There is a wealth of untapped potential over there” at the Adult Correctional Institutions, says Kilroy. “I wasn’t even the smartest guy in my cell block. And that’s the point here. In each of our stories we would not be where we are now without the help and mentoring we received.”


From Prison to College: Here’s Why Education Matters

TTEFMay 29th is the second #ProofPointDay, an annual celebration to bring visibility and voice to the hundreds of thousands of first-generation college graduates (FGs) in the US — reinforcing what is possible and inspiring the next generation. #ProofPointDay is the fellowship project created by Pahara-Aspen Fellow Chastity Lord.

Andres Idarraga, Noah Kilroy, and Bruce Reilly are all FGs and founders of  Transcending Through Education Foundation (TTEF), which supports the higher education efforts of people in or transitioning out of prison.

Before we all went to college, we went to prison. In that unlikely place, we began our educational journeys. We discussed books while walking the prison yard — sharpening our minds, and in the process, more deeply understanding ourselves. We kept each other accountable to a daily study regime. We paid our last dollar on correspondence college courses, and applied to universities while still behind bars. We left prison and entered college. Today, we all have law degrees.

We founded Transcending Through Education Foundation  (TTEF) with a shared mission to help the countless future FGs behind prison bars.

We know from both statistics and experience that education is the single greatest purveyor of stability for people with conviction histories. Yet, the educational needs and hopes of people in prison have been systemically overlooked.

In 1994, when Congress eliminated Pell Grant eligibility for people in prison, the programs that did exist dwindled to a very few. All this despite the overwhelming evidence that prison education programs work: the recidivism rate for unemployed, non-high school inmates is nearly 50 percent, compared with 17 percent for employed, college program participants. A recent Rand Corporation study also found these programs cost-effective against re-incarceration.

The longstanding effort to restore Pell Grant eligibility has finally taken root as individual education is increasingly recognized for its broader community-building and public safety values. Children in prison have recently regained eligibility, and legislation for a full restoration is pending in Congress.

As FGs, we know the value of an educational lifeline, especially when a person hits rock bottom. We also know the value of role models. Few people in prison have a college education or go on to get one after release. Over 10 years ago, still in prison, Bruce asked Andres if he knew anyone in prison who had gone to college. Andres replied that he knew no one.

TTEF is changing this reality. Since TTEF was founded in 2012, we have awarded nine scholarships and grants in Rhode Island (our home state and where we all served our prison time) to people who are taking college courses while in prison or after they have been released. TTEF plans to replicate its model in more states.

The vast majority of our award winners are first-generation college students. We have conducted workshops for nearly 500 incarcerated individuals in every prison facility throughout Rhode Island. TTEF’s workshops take on the very issues that we found ourselves navigating alone, without a blueprint or role model: applying to college and for financial aid with a criminal conviction, managing personal finances, and dealing with the stigma of being a formerly incarcerated FG, to name a few.

This July marks TTEF’s third scholarship cycle. Like TTEF’s founders, our award winners will face challenges. In general, more than a quarter of low-income first-generation college students leave after their first year in college and close to 90 percent fail to graduate within six years. Our awardees will face additional hurdles.

Whether you are a FG, future FG, or an FG ally, we encourage you to be visible and vocal on May 29th by visiting and wearing green.