In the Spotlight: The College & Community Fellowship Helps Formerly Incarcerated Women Obtain College Degrees
Date:  04-11-2016

CCF goes beyond academic support to help formerly incarcerated women transition back into the community
In 2002, Yolanda was a single mother just out of prison. She was among the first set of women to sign up for what was then a new program – the College & Community Fellowship, a New York-based non-profit that offered her the chance to pursue a higher education, something Yolanda had never before considered.

Three years later, Cheryl was released after spending more than eight years in prison. She too joined CCF, hoping to turn her life around.

Today, both women have graduate degrees and successful careers, along with hundreds of other women who have enrolled in CCF’s life-changing programs.

Currently in its 15th year, CCF has helped formerly incarcerated women earn more than 300 degrees; ranging from Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD’s, and even a JD. CCF continues to help women make successful transitions from prison to life in the community using strategies that focus on a trauma-informed, gender-responsive approach to higher education, community building, leadership development, and artistic expression.

All women in the program have access to services that equip them with the basic skills needed to become self-sufficient and financially secure. Beyond academic support, students receive counseling, financial coaching, peer support, and mentoring services. Students can also participate in advocacy efforts, the theater program, community block parties, and even a writer’s group.

The success of CCF’s model speaks for itself: 70% of CCF students have completed their degrees within four years. 20-30% of have gone on to achieve Master’s Degrees. And less than 2% have re-offended – a fraction of the national average of 67.8%.

With CCF, it’s not just about supporting individual students. CCF continues to fight for both formerly and currently incarcerated students in its leadership of the national, nonpartisan Education from the Inside Out Coalition, which has led the charge for in-prison education and tirelessly advocated for legislation to restore access to Pell Grants, Banning the Box in Higher Education, and other funding opportunities. The EIO Coalition, with CCF’s help, was a leader in the Obama Administration’s decision to partially restore Pell Grant Access to a select number of students last year, and continues to support legislative action both in New York State and nationally that would benefit criminal justice involved students everywhere. To join CCF you must be a woman with criminal justice involvement who has a High School diploma, or GED, and ready to go back to school. To stay a CCF student you must be enrolled at a credit bearing school, maintain at least a 2.5 GPA, and attend at least 2 CCF-sponsored activities per semester. Financial scholarships available.

If you know someone who could be helped by CCF services, click here.

If you would like to join the Education from the Inside Out Coalition, click here.