"I don't believe there's such a thing as a 'throw-away human being.' I have this desire to give back to my community. I think anytime you see something good, you should perpetuate that goodness."
Meet Project Rebound alumnus and Enrollment Specialist, Mirvais Aminy, and learn about the impactful work he's doing to counsel and mentor at-risk youth and formerly incarcerated students.
The John Irwin House, established in 2018 by Project Rebound at Cal State Fullerton, is the first transformative housing community for formerly incarcerated university students in the United States. The Irwin House provides holistic, healing, life-affirming reentry housing and wraparound support services to improve academic, psychosocial, and employment outcomes for formerly incarcerated Cal State Fullerton students.
"Project Rebound is an existential spot for me. It has been the scaffolding that's allowed me to integrate this important part of me into [my] educational experience and not have to feel like I'm hiding this part of myself."
Robert Duesler was the President of Students 4 Autism and the second graduate of Project Rebound at Cal State Fullerton. Robert graduated magna cum laude in Human Services, is earning a Masters degree in Psychology at Cal Poly Pomona, and aspires to become a credentialed counselor. He wants to help people heal from traumatic experiences, especially those who have served time in prison.
"Education empowers. Education's very important because it changes you into a person that can make a difference -- make a difference in your community and in your family. It makes you a stronger person of mind and makes you more ready for any challenges that you could face in your life."
Meet Omar Chavez, the first graduate of Project Rebound at Cal State Fullerton. In this video, Omar shares the personal story of his experience as a student participating in Project Rebound at CSU Fullerton.
"One of the biggest distinctions that I see between the prison yards and the college campuses is that in the prison yards everybody wants to know where you're from. On the college campuses, we don't care where you're from. We just care where you're going."
After 25 years in prison, Arnold Trevino earned a Bachelors and Masters degree and was awarded a Dean's Medalist at Fresno State. He now volunteers with Project Rebound at Fresno State and is employed by the Insight Garden Program at Avenal State Prison, a program that practices restoration through hands-on ecological education with incarcerated people.
"That was my turning point, because once I felt welcomed and there were people that could relate to me and that wasn’t judging me school became easy. It was fun. It was an escape. It was like my sanctuary."
Project Rebound consists of a Consortium of nine CSU campus-based programs at Bakersfield, Fresno, Fullerton, Los Angeles, Pomona, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, and San Francisco. This video spotlights the voices of Project Rebound students throughout the state.
"It's unbelievable that within the greatest country in the world we incarcerate so many people who need support and love, who need a first chance, let alone a second or third or fourth chance. The human spirit is so amazing, but the human condition sometimes sets us up for places like prison... but it doesn't have to, and we deserve better."
In this video by JustUS Voices, Romarilyn Ralston talks about personal struggles she's faced in her journey from incarceration to earning both her Bachelor's and Master's degrees in her first 5 years outside. Romarilyn is the Program Coordinator for Project Rebound at CSU Fullerton.
"I started to learn that there was something for me in school and when I found that, I went 100% on it."
In this video by Root and Rebound, Jason Bell talks about his personal journey from incarceration to higher education to directing Project Rebound at San Francisco State University. Jason is now the Director of Program Development for the California State University Project Rebound Consortium, helping to expand opportunities for formerly incarcerated students throughout the California State University.
"I get asked by people all across the country: 'If you could say one thing to a kid what would it be?' And I wouldn't 'say,' I would show up. I'd make sure that they have my card, that they can write me, that they can call me. Because sometimes showing up is what really reaches them."
James Anderson, co-founder of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, speaks about his experience transitioning from imprisonment to discussing Socrates in a university classroom, to meeting with President Obama at the White House and graduating with honors from UCLA in June 2017.
Allen has been incarcerated for longer than his stepdaughter Zion has been alive, but they've found common ground and connection through education. Allen is enrolled in California's only face-to-face Bachelor's degree program for incarcerated individuals through Cal State LA. Zion is getting ready to start her freshman year at Cal State LA's main campus.
Meet Project Rebound community partner Dr. Susan Burton. Having spent years behind bars, Dr. Burton is now the Founder and Executive Director of A New Way of Life Reentry Project, a community organization that supports and empowers formerly incarcerated women by giving them a place to live that is free of drugs, alcohol, and abuse. She has helped hundreds of women start new lives, and helped Project Rebound at Cal State Fullerton launch the John Irwin House, the nation's first reentry housing initiative for formerly incarcerated university students.
"For individuals who participate in any type of correctional education program, their risk of being re-incarcerated drops by 13 percentage points. For those who participate in college programs, they’re half as likely to be re-incarcerated upon release."
RAND research looks at the effect correctional education has on recidivism and post-release employment and at its cost-effectiveness.
"I think the more the public becomes informed about solutions, the more they will understand that there is something we can do other than keep incarcerating people."
Project Rebound at CSU Fullerton community partner, Susan Burton, receives the 2010 Gleitsman Citizen Activist Award for her efforts to fight social injustice by the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School. Here she discusses her work to oppose mass incarceration in Los Angeles by founding and directing A New Way of Life Reentry Project.
"I think it’s [important to have] opportunity for people who are coming back into the community to get grounded and get a hold on their lives, [so] that their lives can actually thrive and they can become assets to the community. What we have now across America are barriers…. We’re really looking backwards at a problem instead of looking forward."
After serving six terms in prison, Susan Burton is now helping other formerly incarcerated women rebuild their lives at A New Way of Life Reentry Project.