The College Pathway Project will connect system-impacted clients with college opportunities through partnerships with local colleges
A recording of this press conference is available here: https://youtu.be/6kz6ksnqdhM?si=V43_fQL6Y5P-NXrp
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Sept. 6, 2023
CONTACT: SF Public Defender Public Relations Officer Jessie Seyfer | (415) 851-2212 | PubDef-MediaRelations@sfgov.org
SAN FRANCISCO — Today, as students across the country return to school, the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office announced a new community empowerment initiative, the College Pathway Project, which formalizes partnerships with San Francisco State University’s Project Rebound and City College of San Francisco’s New Directions programs, to make it easier for current and former Public Defender clients to attend college. These partnerships are informed by overwhelming evidence of the benefits of higher education programs for system-involved individuals; programs like these are powerful tools for expanding job opportunities, keeping people out of the criminal system, and strengthening communities.
“Public Defenders meet our clients when they are often at the most challenging point in their lives, and when the legal system is threatening their liberty and their future. Instead of criminalization, our clients deserve a chance to realize their potential,” said San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju. “We are thrilled to be partnering with SFSU Project Rebound and CCSF New Directions to connect our clients with the resources they need to help them thrive, because we know that their success has exponential benefits for their families and the community at large.”
The San Francisco Public Defender’s office has had informal ties to Project Rebound previously, but this formal partnership will bring closer collaboration and more referrals of current and former clients to access academic and financial aid counseling, job placement, peer support, tutoring, and many other critical services. The Public Defender’s Office will now have a designated space for Project Rebound to liaise with attorneys and social workers in their office, and Project Rebound staffers will attend court hearings and advocate on behalf of client participants for improved legal outcomes.
“I take great pride in our program and in being a living example of what successful reintegration looks like in a college setting,” said San Francisco State Project Rebound Executive Director Jason Bell. “When I first came out of prison, I could only have wished for the level of support that Project Rebound provides. Most college counselors aren’t used to working with people in prison and handling prison mail, or helping recently incarcerated students learn how to do things like online college applications. This is why our services are so critical and why this partnership is so important.”
The Public Defender’s Office is also formalizing a partnership with City College of San Francisco’s New Directions program, which has just received new grant funding from the state to expand its staff and program capacity.
City College Student Trustee Heather Brandt, whose own family has been impacted by incarceration, said: “I want to thank the San Francisco Public Defender’s office for their willingness to collaborate to meet the needs of those that have been impacted by the carceral system, people who are such a vital and integral part of our community. I also want to thank our City College board of trustees and our chancellor for heeding the community’s call to support our systems-impacted students by pursuing state funding. This is equity in action!”
“We’re grateful for the outstanding partnership with the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, and look forward to the upcoming collaborations that will springboard San Francisco to the forefront in providing educational opportunities and support for students who have been impacted by incarceration,” said City College Chancellor Dr. David Martin.
San Francisco State Project Rebound participant Belinda Anderson is a former Public Defender’s office client and is working on getting a bachelor’s degree in communications after earning her associate’s degree in humanities while incarcerated. Project Rebound assisted Anderson in applying for resources online, buying books, navigating through campus, even escorting her to class on her first day. “For me, Project Rebound represents hope. It’s an olive branch,” she said. “They extended their branch and opened their arms to me, and helped me in so many ways. They weren’t looking down their nose at you. My experience was wonderful.”
Former Public Defender’s office client Carmen Padilla participated in Project Rebound at CSU-Stanislaus and also worked as an assistant with the program. This past spring, she earned her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a concentration in juvenile justice. This fall, she’ll be applying to programs to get a master’s in public administration. “Project Rebound has been my foundation,” she said. “I want more people to know about Project Rebound and other programs like it, so that people know that there are opportunities for them to break the cycle of what they’re used to.”
More information on Project Rebound can be found at https://asi.sfsu.edu/project-rebound, and info on New Directions can be found at https://www.ccsf.edu/student-services/new-directions.