Description & History

The College Initiative (CI) is an innovative reentry program linking formerly incarcerated men and women with college programs, primarily at the City University of New York.

CI student body comes from the poorest communities in New York and reflects the population of New York State and New York City prisons and jails.

Most (63%) are black males and Latino males (15%).

Eleven percent are black females and 5% are Latina females.

White males comprise 3% of our student body and 2% are white females.

With the help of CI, they are able to gain the tools necessary to begin and complete a college education; develop important life and leadership skills; gain access to meaningful, well paying jobs; and develop both the skills and awareness needed to build up the neighborhoods they once tore down.

Since its founding six years ago, CI has utilized a holistic approach to guide and support formerly incarcerated individuals through the complex process and unique challenges they face in planning, preparing for, applying to, and financing a college education.

CI also assists students with other aspects of reentry, such as employment, housing, physical and mental health, and family needs, to help stabilize their lives and set them on the path to becoming contributors to their communities.

CI?s successful six-pronged program model includes: ?Outreach and Student Recruitment.

?Orientation, Assessment, Academic Coaching and preparation for Placement Exams. ?Reentry Support.

?Access to Financial Assistance and Scholarships.

?Matriculation and Enrollment Retention.

?Future Academic and Workforce Planning.

As part of the City University of New York (CUNY), CI has direct access to the vast resources of the largest public university system in the nation.

CI also leverages its strategic partnerships with an extensive network of community partners, including community-based reentry organizations in the five boroughs.

Our goal is to ensure that CI students have access to a broad range of services to support their stability and integration back into their families and communities.

Accomplishments In five years, CI?s comprehensive approach has enabled CI to achieve a remarkable track record of success. CI students study range from first time freshman to PhD candidates: Fifty-two percent of students attend a community college; 40% of students attend a senior college; and 8% of students attend graduate school.

The large number of students majoring in Human Services/Social Work (44%) reflects the desire of CI students to ?give back? to their communities in a range of ways, including becoming mentors for at-risk youth, HIV/AIDS counselors, and outreach workers.

CI achievements include the following: ?Since 2002 we have corresponded with over 5,000 prisoners in 110 New York State and federal correctional facilities. ?More than 1006 participants have attended our bi- weekly orientation sessions. ?In five years, 364 students have enrolled in college for at least one semester.

?During the fall 2007 semester we anticipate 160 students enrolled in 27 colleges. ?During the 2006-2007 academic year, many CI students were lauded for academic excellence including: nomination to the National Dean?s list, Honor Societies, recipients of CUNY BA Smith Scholarships and CUNY?s Bell Zeller Scholship. ?21 students have completed degrees and 19 are now in their senior year. ?Among students who have completed at least one semester of college, only one student of 364 has returned to a New York State prison.

?CI has taken a leadership role with the New York City Department of Probation and the New York State Division of Parole in advocating for the role of higher education in the reentry process.

About the organization

College Initiative

Benay Rubenstein
Program Director
Cheryl Wilkins
Program Manager
(718) 960-1971
Kirk James
Social Worker
(718) 960-1972