From prison bars to classroom stars - Page 2

CAREERS AND EDUCATION: A City College program helps ex-offenders acclimate to college culture

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Second Chance staffers Juanita Grey and Charles Moore.
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY LUCY SCHILLER

The program's staff and tutors say adjusting to a school environment is a major obstacle for ex-offender-students. Jeffrey Masko, who volunteers with eight Second Chance participants each week, tutoring them in English and math, describes the basic challenges for students who are coming from prison time.

"[Second Chance students] sometimes only have one shot, an hour at a library computer, to do their work," says Masko. "For a lot of these students, there is no 'later' — they have to do the work before they get on the bus home, or [maybe if] they have an hour before class [they can do it then]."

If the program's longevity alone is not enough to prove its effectiveness, statistics help. In the fall 2010 semester, more than 80 percent of students in Second Chance were in good academic standing, according to a 2011 article by program director Ray Fong. Also in that year, students bent on further study transferred to San Francisco State University, University of California at Berkeley, and Mills College.

Second Chancers have gone on to work as drug counselors, social workers, and activists.

"There's definitely a strange phenomenon [within the Second Chance student body] of giving back," explains Masko. "Even though they may have spent 10 years in the penitentiary, they look for fields that they can make a contribution within."

Alumnus Jason Bell heads San Francisco State's Project Rebound, a similar program geared towards helping the ex-incarcerated towards college degrees. Rudy Corpuz Jr., another graduate, founded United Playaz in 1994 to combat youth violence.

In 2010, students earned certificates in violence intervention, emergency medicine, administration of justice, trauma prevention, and case management skills.

"I haven't had one person in my office say they didn't want to give back," says Moore, "They say it each and every time. And I'm coming up on 15 years."

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