Former prisoners are helping former prisoners break in to college courses. The Urban Scholars Union is a relatively new organization created by ex-cons for ex-cons looking to better themselves through education.
USU’s President Cesar Garcia said they started 18 months ago at San Diego City College to help “justice impacted” students succeed.
“[We want to] empower them and motivate them to be productive members of society,” said Garcia.
“We’re not monsters that they make us out to feel and make us out to be,” said San Diego City College student Ryan Rising. “We’re humans that made poor choices.”
Rising spent 15 years behind bars for carjacking and attempted extortion but will matriculate to Cal Berkley on a scholarship after earning his Associate’s at City.
“I’m super proud of myself,” he said.
Garcia, who served seven years for a list of crimes, said the USU provides a space for former prisoners to get help, guidance, and support.
The organization recently expanded to Southwestern College and is working on helping students at Mesa and Grossmont Colleges.
USU also recently received its largest donation to date. Current prisoners at Donovan Correctional in Otay Mesa donated $2,000 to USU for scholarships and grants for former prisoners.
“It just goes to show you how we do look out for each other,” said Garcia.
“We just need go out and advocate to erase all these stigmas,” said Rising.