This week, the Root & Rebound team had the pleasure of meeting with leaders of Project Rebound, a nonprofit group that works out of San Francisco State University (SFSU). We met with Project Rebound’s Director Jason Bell, Data Specialist Airto Morales, Staff Member Joseph Miles, and Social Work Intern Deborah Boldwin, with whom we spoke about legal and social services gaps in reentry.
We wanted to share with you a bit about Project Rebound’s mission and program operations to highlight the critical work they do in the Bay Area community.
Project Rebound’s mission is to support the formerly incarcerated on their journey through successful reintegration in a college setting. In 1967, Professor John Irwin created Project Rebound as a way to matriculate people into SFSU directly from the prison and jail systems. The focus of Project Rebound quickly became “Education as an Alternative to Incarceration” and “Turning Former Prisoners to Scholars.” Since the program’s inception, it has assisted and supported hundreds of formerly incarcerated people to obtain four-year degrees; some have gone on to get Master’s degrees, PhDs, and JDs.
Project Rebound’s reach extends beyond the SFSU campus, as staff make an effort to mentor and assist prisoners who write to them from across the state and country. Project Rebound responds to every person who writes to them from prison and jail, or from the outside. Even if people who initiate contact are not college-ready, Project Rebound staff will send them a detailed education plan; each prospective students learns how and where they can become college-ready and how to prepare for enrollment at SFSU. If, for example, someone writes from prison wishing to improve his or her education, but doesn’t have a college degree, Project Rebound will tell them to start with the GED program at his or her prison and explain how to apply. If someone writes who is college-ready but currently incarcerated, Project Rebound will connect him or her with community colleges that run correspondence programs he or she can join.
Once they are out, formerly incarcerated people in the Bay Area connect with Project Rebound to learn more about opportunities in higher education. Director Jason Bell says, “If people can make it to our office, no matter where they come from, we will do everything in our power to help them.” Project Rebound assists people in reentry with the smallest and biggest of needs: the organization helps pay for people to take the SAT and ACT, find safe housing, and acts as a home base for formerly incarcerated men and women in the greater Bay Area.
One of the many things that makes Project Rebound stand out is its mentorship model. Its mission is that, “From prison to empowerment, from destitution to the notion of ‘restorative justice,’ we are here to aid those who want to help themselves and to help others. We are still about the business of ‘each–one—teach–one.’” Individuals who come to the Project Rebound office at SFSU are met by a staff who have been through similar circumstances—all of the Project Rebound leadership is formerly incarcerated, people who believe in reaching their hand back to help those who have stumbled down negative paths much like they did years ago.
Therefore, part of being involved in Project Rebound is believing in and living this mentorship model. Current Project Rebound students and alumni are given a stipend for serving as mentors—simultaneously providing a knowledgeable mentor to newly-released students and supporting people with criminal records who need a source of income.
Project Rebound is an exceptional model, run by an exceptional group of people. It provides triumphant direction to so many people coming out of prison and jail, ready to restart their lives. Our hope is that Project Rebound will grow and that its model will be implemented at other universities across California and the country. We are in dire need of more programs like this one.
Thank you, Project Rebound, for the wonderful work you are doing in our community, and for sharing so many great ideas with us. We have great hopes for many future collaborations!
–The R & R Team