College Initiative Upstate creates pathways to and through college for court-involved and formerly incarcerated people
College Initiative Upstate (CIU) is a learning community of students, educators, and volunteers who are working together to build pathways to and through college for court-involved and formerly incarcerated people living in Tompkins County, NY. CIU’s model provides the resources for college preparation, college enrollment, and community leadership – all free of charge. The only requirement besides justice involvement is a high school diploma or equivalency. By effectively addressing the individual and structural barriers to higher education, including the gap in preparation for college enrollment for individuals impacted by the legal system, CIU offers a life-changing path for non-traditional students experiencing poverty, substance abuse, and legal involvement.
This button will direct you to our contact page to send us an inquiry. This is the first step to getting involved with CIU.
Each semester we will shine a spotlight on a few CIU students who will share their unique stories. Enjoy meeting our outstanding Fall 2020 cohort!
In 2017, my year had started off rough. I left a violent domestic relationship, got evicted, and had to send my two sons to live with my parents out of town. That’s when a friend told me about CIU, and I decided to stop by. From then on, I would continually meet with Benay and Suzanne about my life goals, community resources, TC3 information, financial aid, and school supplies. After graduation, in 2018, I returned to TC3 for Nursing prerequisites, and a second degree. In 2020, I was accepted to TC3’s nursing program. CIU has been a huge support team, guiding me through each semester and giving me the foundation to achieve my educational and life goals.
I am a working mom with three children attending TC3 fulltime. I was accepted to TC3 with a GED, having never been to high school or college. It took me a year or so to start believing that I could not only complete my program but also do well academically. What helped was feedback from teachers, my growing self-confidence, all the support available at TC3, and College Initiative Upstate. Last semester I completed my A.S. degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences and have been accepted into TC3’s Nursing Program for Fall 2020. My children will see me accomplish this and I will have shown them that with hard work and determination, anything is possible.
At 15, I entered a juvenile detention facility and spent the next decade in state prisons for a string of crimes I committed as a teenager. While incarcerated, I was fortunate to be able to complete an Associate degree with the Cornell Prison Education Program (CPEP). After release, with the incredible support and guidance from the CIU staff, I applied to 13 colleges! Fall 2018, I was accepted into Stanford University on a full academic scholarship to study political science and Mandarin. My transition from Auburn Correctional Facility to Cornell University, and now Stanford, would never have happened without the help and support of College Initiative Upstate, a program that works with court-involved and formerly incarcerated people in Tompkins County. I am set to complete my undergraduate degree at the end of 2020 and look forward to continuing my education at the Graduate level.
I was stuck in a job that was headed nowhere for over 8 years, when it became apparent that if I was to have any hope of making a good living without working endless hours, I would need a college education. I called CIU and talked with a Counselor for 20 minutes. Those 20 minutes changed my life. I just received my final letter of approval and acceptance into TC3’s A.A.S degree in Construction and Environmental Technology. With this degree I hope to do some good for our planet and our environment while learning how to build a green home for my family, all while being able to live securely financially.