On March 23, 2016, The Opportunity Institute, a non-profit organization that promotes social mobility and equity by improving outcomes through education, announced the recipients of grants to provide high-quality college courses to currently and formerly incarcerated students in order to transform their lives. The grants are part of the Renewing Communities Initiative that is based on research conducted by the Stanford Criminal Justice Center and the Warren Institute at Berkeley Law. Shasta College, which began its STEP UP (Shasta Technical Education Program- Unified Partnership) program three years ago, received a grant to expand its services and provide additional support for 50 students annually. The grant will provide more than $200,000 a year for up to three years, pending renewal approval, and will be used to hire personnel at Shasta College and the Probation’s Office to oversee the program, and also support the needs of students as they pursue certificates and degrees. Partners in the grant include Sheriff’s Department, Probation, Good News Rescue Mission and CHYBA (California Heritage YouthBuild Academy).
More than 50,000 people will be released from California’s prisons in the next two years and many will return to custody without intervention. Shasta College is committed to ensuring that formerly incarcerated students who are motivated to receive an education and enter the workforce receive that opportunity and the support to succeed. “STEP UP provides a support system that many individuals being released from incarceration have never had, and it truly makes a difference in their ability to build a secure future they can be proud of. When they participate in STEP UP, they have many people from faculty to staff to administrators dedicated to helping them succeed at Shasta College. With the new grant, more of these individuals will have access to the same tools and support system that will allow them to become productive members of society and begin rewarding careers,” said Eva Jimenez, Dean of Economic and Workforce Development at Shasta College, who began the STEP UP program in partnership with the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office.
Both Superintendent/President Dr. Joe Wyse and Vice President of Instruction Meridith Randall have supported STEP UP from the start, and look forward to strengthening the program. “Community colleges exist to serve the entire community, including those who have encountered difficulties,” said Randall. “We believe helping this population will allow them to improve their quality of life, and will in turn create a stronger and safer community for everyone.”
“The grant will expand the STEP UP program and educational opportunities for inmates, probationers, and persons at the Good News Rescue Mission. The program assists with rehabilitation of offenders and helps lead to productive lifestyles of the participants. An education increases the ability to obtain employment. This is a great example of community collaboration in the rebuilding of people’s lives,” said Sheriff Tom Bosenko.
Chief Probation Officer Tracie Neal stated, “Education and expanding educational services for the offender population supervised by Probation is essential and a key component to the rehabilitative process. These grant dollars will allow continued collaboration and for us to build on the existing STEP UP Program. I am proud to be part of this collaborative effort that focuses on educational opportunities that allows offenders to be more successful in the community.”
Jonathan Anderson, Executive Director of Good News Rescue Mission, added that “The Good News Rescue Mission is honored to be a part of this program which has already helped us see greater success in the number of people not only attending college but also excelling in college. The STEP UP program is proving to be an integral part of breaking both the cycle of poverty and recidivism; which could also prove to be an effective model for other communities to follow.”
According to Dean Jimenez, the college will move quickly to identify an interim program coordinator by late April. The next cohort of STEP UP students will begin at Shasta College in summer 2016.
A consortium of nine foundations are funding the Renewing Communities initiative, including The California Endowment, The California Wellness Foundation, Roy & Patricia Disney Family Foundation, ECMC Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Rosenberg Foundation.