The three areas of CIU’s programming are College Prep ATI, College Access, and Leadership
College Prep ATI (Alternative to Incarceration)
The goals of College Prep ATI are to make college a reality for court-involved and formerly incarcerated people, whose challenges in pursuing higher education are compounded by academic, personal, and financial barriers.
CIU has offered three 6-8-week intensive College Prep sessions (Fall, Spring, Summer) each year for new and returning college students since 2017. Classes are designed to give the tools, knowledge, relationships, and skills necessary to begin and complete a college education.
College Prep classes are held at Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3) Extension Center in downtown Ithaca, with a supportive and personalized learning community of students, staff, instructors, and volunteers. Each class is made up of a unique mix of first-generation college students and students with previous college experience who need a refresher.
The College Prep curriculum combines both academic and social preparation, including Reading/Writing, and Math, with remedial/individualized coursework as needed. Students will also learn a range of soft skills that familiarize them with critical thinking, decision making, clear communication, test-taking, and the basics of the college experience. On average, two-thirds of participants complete CIU’s College Prep program and 70% enroll at TC3.
“I have an extensive criminal background and rap sheet. I am also fifty years old, with a short resume. CIU has expanded my horizons as it has shown me that I am destined for great things, as long as I remain positive, determined, and put in the footwork. This is a wonderful way to start adding to my resume, and I recommend it to anyone, young or old, who wants to build a better life and a brighter future. Dare to dream.” Pam, CIU Student
As a bridge to college, we offer many services and material support leading to enrollment in college degree programs. Many low-income prospective students with barriers to higher education are unaware that they are eligible for Federal (Pell) and New York State (TAP) financial aid. These grants typically cover all tuition expenses at a SUNY undergraduate program for full-time students who are low-income. CIU staff assists with the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), scholarship applications, and advise students about how to meet financial gaps and negotiate outstanding student loans.
Although the majority of CIU students enroll at Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3) in Dryden, NY, CIU students also attend other public and private colleges including Empire State College, CUNY Brooklyn College, CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Fordham University, Temple University, and Stanford University.
College Access Services Include:
- One-on-one academic counseling and guidance
- Help navigating the college application process
- Access to federal and NYS financial aid (FASFA) and scholarships
- Assistance with getting student loans out of default
- Semester-long bus passes in collaboration with TCAT and Catholic Charities
- Book stipends each semester
- Chromebooks for enrolled students
- Tutoring for college courses
- On-going CIU community events and celebrations
- Re-entry support in collaboration with our network of community partners
In Sept. 2020, CIU launched Voices That Must Be Heard, our new Leadership Program. Voices first project is an ongoing Oral History Project in collaboration between CIU and Civic Ensemble ReEntry Theatre. Our goal was to encourage our local community to open their eyes to the humanity of people who have experienced court-involvement and incarceration, and to reduce the stigma through real stories with humor, joy, sorrow, love, and hope.
To begin, Julia Taylor, ED of Civic, offered weekly workshops to a group of CIU students and ReEntry Peers focusing on a wide-range of communication and interview skills. Participants then recorded each other’s life narratives. These personal narratives will become part of the Oral History Collection at the History Center in Tompkins County.
Spring 2021, we began listening and pulling material from the transcribed interviews and wove them into a script. By early summer, our Oral History narrators became editors and actors, retelling these stories as a three-part radio play. You can find excerpts from the interviews here.
Through an exploration of Family, Hot Topics and Hopes & Dreams, the culmination of this amazing project was a three-part radio play that aired on WRFI Community Radio in September 2021.
Please listen to these complex stories narrated by the creators themselves: