The three areas of CIU’s programming are College Prep, 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 prospective students with criminal records 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 Fall 2019, CIU launched "Voices That Must Be Heard", a Peer Leadership group composed of emerging CIU student leaders and allies in the community who have lived-experience with incarceration, court involvement, homelessness, and other critical issues that face our county. Members of the “Voices” group develop projects that address one or more of the critical issues that have directly impacted their lives, ranging from voter registration for the formerly incarcerated, to the problem of homelessness in Ithaca. The Voices peers not only gain strong support from within the peer group, but also have access to a wide range of resources and individuals in CIU's extensive network of community partners. Our goal is to raise the voices that have been hidden from the mainstream, bringing fresh perspectives from underrepresented groups.
Projects that our peers have pursued have already yielded positive impacts in the community. We would like to feature two of our Voices Peers: Richard Rivera and Dan Zanella. Richard has worked tirelessly though the pandemic, in collaboration with community partners, to improve housing, food delivery, hygiene, access to showers and laundry facilities, and healthcare in The Jungle, a homeless encampment in Ithaca. His work has been featured in both the Marshall Project (“I survived prison during the Aids epidemic: Here’s what it taught me about the coronavirus”) and the New York Times (“What Home Means to the Homeless: This is what they hung on to when so many things were lost”). Dan has worked to register formerly incarcerated people to vote in Tompkins County. He has done this work on the individual level, personally appealing to community members, and on the group level, through a voter registration drive held at Tompkins Cortland Community College. You can see Richard and Dan in action through the photos below.