Transferring Ahead and Giving Again: The Graduates of CSUN’s Mission Rebound


Commencement is a time of pleasure and delight. At CSUN, the happiness is palpable throughout campus. So many college students have made sacrifices to finish their levels — working a number of jobs, taking out loans and giving up time with family and friends for the promise of upper schooling.

For 9 Matador graduates this yr, crossing the graduation stage was a selected triumph.

These members of the Class of 2022 — all girls — made up the college’s second cohort of Mission Rebound. This system, which launched at CSUN in 2020, was created at San Francisco State College in 1967 to information previously incarcerated individuals by means of increased schooling.

Seven Mission Rebound graduates shared their tales with us. Many graduated with honors this spring, and 5 earned grasp’s levels. Some have served years in state or federal prisons. Others hung out in county jail. Some grew up in households the place dependancy, not school, was the norm. One is a former foster youth who, as a teen, tried to carry her household collectively after the dying of her guardian.

Their tales could differ, however every shares a standard thread of wrestle, whether or not emotional or monetary.

The graduates additionally share an unwavering want to present again, by means of their chosen profession path or as volunteers tutoring, counseling or listening to others.

Their time in school ignited the hearth of dedication and the need to achieve every of them, even when dealing with unsure housing, parenting duties and monetary difficulties.

The Mission Rebound graduates’ love and appreciation for schooling is obvious. They’ve realized, the laborious method, how schooling can elevate them up — and they’re able to maintain climbing.

Regardless of their accomplishments, many nonetheless really feel self-doubt and disgrace. They fear about being accepted at work and locally. Those that have had their felony information expunged nonetheless fear that their previous errors will forestall them from doing significant work sooner or later.

Mission Rebound supplied this cohort a security internet, monetary assist and, most significantly, a group of others, like household, who’ve traveled the identical highway.

Listed below are a few of their tales.

Kathy Jamieson (M.S.W, Social Work, Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences)

Kathy Jamieson, M.S.W., Social Work. Picture by Lee Choo.

This spring, Kathy Jamieson accomplished her grasp’s in social work, graduating with honors. She plans to pursue certification as a Licensed Scientific Social Employee. Jamieson is the primary in her household to get a school diploma.

For the self-described “non-traditional pupil,” it’s been a protracted highway to that diploma. Jamieson, 52, was first incarcerated at age 33, then once more at 37. Alcohol and drug dependancy led her to poor decisions, she mentioned. “I do know what opiates can do,” Jamieson mentioned. “I understand how they ravage households.”

She credit her first steps towards increased schooling to the workers on the remedy heart the place she went by means of detox. Later, the workers employed her as a psychiatric technician. Inspired to contemplate a profession that career by the remedy heart workers, Jamieson enrolled at Pierce Faculty.

“I used to be very scared strolling on that campus my first day,” she mentioned. “My legs shook.” Jamieson didn’t inform anybody about her previous in her common schooling courses. “There was a lot disgrace and a lot guilt,” she mentioned.

After transferring to CSUN and finishing her bachelor’s diploma in psychology (magna cum laude), Jamieson utilized to CSUN’s Grasp of Social Work program, the place confidence and reality slowly overtook her disgrace and guilt.

“The professors within the M.S.W. program, as soon as I disclosed my previous at school … I simply felt understood,” she mentioned. “There’s simply been one thing tremendous particular about this program. After which got here Mission Rebound.”

Like different graduates in this system, Jamieson credited the emotional assist supplied by the Mission Rebound group with serving to her get by means of graduate college. “Dr. [Martha] Escobar is making a group for individuals to really feel like they belong,” she mentioned.

A few of her emotions of guilt and disgrace linger, however they’re fading, Jamieson mentioned. “There’s a view of what an individual with a felony historical past seems to be like or a drug addict seems to be like,” she mentioned. “I wish to change that face.”

Dellaynnah Cleveland (M.S.W, Social Work, Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences)

Dellaynnah Cleveland portrait

Dellaynnah Cleveland, M.S.W., Social Work. Picture by Lee Choo.

Dellaynnah Cleveland desires to begin her personal nonprofit sometime, working with the homeless inhabitants. A single mum or dad of a 7-year-old daughter, Cleveland labored full time whereas pursuing her grasp’s diploma and maintained, as she put it, “just about straight-A’s.”

“It’s powerful being a single mum or dad, attempting to get an schooling and mannequin one thing for them,” Cleveland mentioned.

Cleveland was incarcerated on the age of 19, for 3-and-a-half years, after rising up, partially, in foster care. Whereas in jail, she earned her affiliate diploma in enterprise, by means of a correspondence course. It was there she realized an schooling was essential as a result of her felony background would restrict her alternatives.

“I knew that I would wish to acquire an schooling as a way to fight the ills of society and to extend my odds of getting and dwelling a ‘regular’ productive life,” she mentioned. After she was launched, she enrolled in social and behavioral sciences programs at CSU Bakersfield, the place she accomplished her bachelor’s diploma in sociology with a minor in psychology.

All the time thinking about increased schooling, Cleveland had maintained a minimum of a 3.5 GPA in highschool. However her path ahead was filled with disruptions and tragedy. She left foster care to dwell with an aunt, who died in a automobile accident when she was 17 years previous. She was decided to stick with her youthful cousins.

“So right here we’re, 17, 16 and 15, attempting to determine easy methods to survive and never get pulled into the [foster care] system once more,” she mentioned. “And that’s what opened doorways to petty crimes, that changed into me being incarcerated.” It was about survival, Cleveland mentioned, “however the system doesn’t take a look at the issues that you just undergo that get you right here, the trials that you just face.”

Mission Rebound’s deal with previously incarcerated college students is essential, she mentioned.

“Most individuals come [to higher education] already believing they don’t have what it takes to do it,” she mentioned. “To have a corporation who believes in your means to entry increased schooling is required — to elevate up these people who find themselves truly attempting to make a distinction and attempting to suit into society one of the best ways that they will.”

Ana Zapata (B.A., Sociology, Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences).

Ana Zapata portrait

Ana Zapata, B.A., Sociology. Picture by Lee Choo.

Ana Zapata began taking school programs at Mission Faculty when she was in highschool.

“I all the time knew I wished to go to varsity,” Zapata mentioned. She began with a toddler growth class, after which took one other class throughout her senior yr of highschool. “Then I acquired into some bother,” she mentioned, “and I needed to cease taking that class.”

Zapata and her mom had a heated argument after Zapata’s class was cancelled for the day.  Her mom thought she was reducing college. The police had been known as. Many members of Zapata’s household are undocumented immigrants from Mexico, and she or he worries about members of the family getting arrested. “I’m very overprotective of my household,” she mentioned. “I by no means need something dangerous to occur to them.”

After that run-in with the police, Zapata mentioned she hung out recovering in a psychological well being facility. Later, in her 20s, additional issues with the regulation led to Zapata serving a stint in county jail. Since then, she has change into a U.S. citizen and now, a school graduate, the primary in her household. The 34-year-old is contemplating pursuing a grasp’s diploma in social work or library science.

 No matter profession path she follows, Zapata mentioned, she desires to assist individuals.

“I’ve been by means of so much, and I simply wanna ensure that the subsequent one that is in want of assist a minimum of has steering,” she mentioned. She credited Mission Rebound with spurring her curiosity in graduate college. “I observed, as soon as I joined them, I acquired extra motivated,” Zapata mentioned.

Shannon Tinker (M.S.W., Social Work, Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences)

Shannon Tinker, M.S.W., Social Work. Photo by Lee Choo.

Shannon Tinker, M.S.W., Social Work. Picture by Lee Choo.

Shannon Tinker has spent the previous eight years pursuing increased schooling. Together with her newly accomplished grasp’s diploma in social work, she desires to work as a psychological well being and substance abuse clinician. A part of her research have included internships in counseling.

“My life has fully modified,” she mentioned. “I assist lots of shoppers who’ve psychological well being and substance abuse points and authorized points, so I really feel like I’m giving again what was given to me.”

Years in the past, Tinker’s habits on account of her dependancy led to felony prices. She spent a quick time in county jail, then went by means of restoration applications that allowed her to have her felony file expunged.

Tinker is the primary in her household to graduate from school. Regardless of how far she’s come, she nonetheless feels doubt and worries that her previous will restrict her future endeavors.

“I’ve lots of hope, however these questions all the time play at the back of your head, as a result of there’s a restrict to what somebody can do after they’ve been arrested and had a felony,” Tinker mentioned.

The assist she’s obtained from Mission Rebound was far more than monetary, she mentioned. “The monetary sources have been actually useful, however additionally they assign you to a social employee who checks in along with your wants,” Tinker mentioned. “You simply have this little group that’s uniquely working with you and offering any form of assist you to want.”

Her pleasure at commencement has been shadowed by loss, nevertheless. Whereas finishing her final semester at CSUN, Tinker’s older brother died. She struggled with grief whereas ending her thesis, and she or he mentioned her Mission Rebound assist system helped her get to the end line. On commencement day, Tinker honored her brother’s reminiscence by adorning her sash and mortar board along with his identify.

Maygin McEwen (M.S.W, Social Work, Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences).

Maygin McEwen portrait

Maygin McEwen, M.S.W., Social Work. Picture by Lee Choo.

Maygin McEwen is graduating with a grasp’s diploma in social work, after finishing her bachelor’s diploma in psychology at CSUN in 2019. Nonetheless weighing her profession path choices, McEwen is contemplating working towards certification as a licensed scientific social employee. She additionally enjoys lobbying and dealing on behalf of human rights and social justice. She has participated in foyer days with the Nationwide Affiliation of Social Staff and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Mission Rebound has supplied McEwen assist with some primary wants, however there’s far more to this system, she mentioned.

“Group is such a giant factor, you already know?” she mentioned. “Martha [Escobar] and Lily [Gonzalez] are simply there [for us],” McEwen mentioned of this system’s administrators. She’s now an intern for Mission Rebound, working with Gonzalez, corresponding with inmates about to be launched and serving to them plan their schooling.

McEwen, 55, accomplished all of her school coursework after stints in state and federal prisons. “I’ve labored laborious for this,” she mentioned, “however it additionally offers me the power [to say to] any individual who’s gotten out, ‘You’ll be able to’t inform me you possibly can’t do it.’”


Maria Martinez (B.S., Laptop Science, Faculty of Engineering and Laptop Science).

Maria Martinez portrait

Maria Martinez. B.S. Laptop Science. Picture by Lee Choo.

After a year-long internship as a software program engineer with the Walt Disney Firm, Maria Martinez has lined up a full-time job with the leisure big, full with a six-figure wage. They credited their success in tough pc science programs, partially, to a interest they realized in jail.

“The courses had been actually laborious till it clicked, and I used to be like, ‘Oh, it’s like crocheting!’” Martinez mentioned. “It’s a brand new language and it’s a sample, and the logic behind it.” Martinez realized to crochet whereas in jail, to de-stress.

Their youthful sister, Denise, inspired them to get their diploma in pc science, Martinez mentioned. Shortly earlier than they had been paroled from Folsom Ladies’s Facility, Denise got here for a go to and requested about their profession plans. “I informed her, ‘[I’ll] most likely simply go and be a hairdresser or one thing,’” Martinez mentioned.

However Denise had different plans. A software program engineer for a gaming firm, Denise enrolled Maria at East Los Angeles Group Faculty, even earlier than they’d been launched from jail. The courses had been laborious, and Martinez struggled with imposter syndrome. After they transferred to CSUN, they drew energy from the Mission Rebound group, Martinez mentioned

“Seeing different people graduating with comparable backgrounds, I used to be like, ‘OK, I can do that. They’ll do it — I can do it,’” they mentioned.

Whereas working and pursuing their diploma at CSUN, Martinez has additionally tutored others in pc science and coding. One other level of delight: They satisfied Disney administration to create an internship for previously incarcerated individuals finding out pc science.

Alexandra Reyes

Alexandra Reyes, M.A. Numerous Group Growth Management. Picture by Lee Choo.

Alexandra Reyes (M.A., Numerous Group Growth Management, Tseng Faculty, Graduate, Worldwide and Midcareer Schooling)

Alexandra Reyes has earned her grasp’s diploma in numerous group growth management. She works as a paralegal — a job she landed by means of an internship, whereas finding out sociology as an undergraduate at CSUN. Nevertheless it’s been a tough journey. Reyes handled homelessness as a teen and acquired into bother with the regulation across the similar time. After having her son, she knew she wanted to pursue increased schooling for higher alternatives, she mentioned.

 “The doorways began closing. After I was attempting to search for work, easy work, everybody was simply denying me,” she mentioned. “As a brand new mom, you simply really feel like a failure. How can I not present for this little one?”

At CSUN, her undergraduate programs sparked a ardour for social justice work, Reyes mentioned. Then, an e mail from CSUN concerning the new grasp’s program for numerous group growth management attracted her.

On this journey, the assist from Mission Rebound was essential, she mentioned. “Mission Rebound is wonderful,” Reyes mentioned. “They had been capable of assist me with meals, to present my youngsters meals.”

Reyes, 33, enjoys her work as a paralegal and needs to focus extra on securing grants for the non-profit the place she works, Neighborhood Authorized Companies of Los Angeles County. She is contemplating going to regulation college. “If it wasn’t for my increased schooling, I don’t know the place I’d be,” she mentioned.

Lily Gonzalez (B.A. Chicana/o Research, 2017. Faculty of Humanities) and Martha Escobar, Ph.D.

Lily Gonzalez and Martha Escobar portrait

Lily Gonzalez and Martha Escobar, Ph.D. Picture by Lee Choo.

Lily Gonzalez and Martha Escobar are the driving forces behind Mission Rebound at CSUN. Gonzalez, Mission Rebound’s program coordinator, is  a CSUN pupil, pursuing a grasp’s diploma in Chicana/o Research and previously incarcerated.

In 2015-2016, she began Revolutionary Students, a gaggle on campus that additionally supported previously incarcerated college students and lobbied to deliver Mission Rebound to CSUN.

“Revolutionary Students allowed us to do lots of the work that was wanted to deliver Mission Rebound to campus,” Gonzalez mentioned. “It was a collective effort.”

Gonzalez corresponds with incarcerated people who find themselves about to be paroled and works with them to find out their greatest path to proceed their schooling.

Escobar is a professor of Chicana/o research within the Faculty of Humanities. She is the manager director of CSUN’s Mission Rebound however is fast to say that it’s a part-time place. Nevertheless, her presence and dedication to this system is praised by the scholars, who mentioned they obtain emails from her beginning at 4:30 within the morning. “What can I say? It’s when I’ve a while!” Escobar mentioned.

Taking part college students signal an settlement to be a part of the Mission Rebound program and obtain state funding for meals and transportation, and books, Escobar mentioned. The group additionally fundraises to assist with emergencies.

Escobar mentioned she worries about those that have signed up with this system however usually are not in shut contact with members. “We don’t know what their struggles are, you already know?” She mentioned.

As for the success of this system, Escobar says it’s not simply {that a} diploma opens alternatives. “It’s that you just change the best way that you concentrate on the world and about your self. It’s very a lot grounded in social justice.”

Mission Rebound has greater than 30 college students enrolled. Its organizers are additionally speaking with about 150 incarcerated individuals who wish to proceed their schooling as soon as they’re paroled.


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