College of San Mateo’s Project Change Learning Community has positively transformed the lives of juvenile justice-impacted youth on CSM’s campus for many years. Project Change provides wrap-around student support services, direct access to postsecondary education for incarcerated youth, and in-person college instruction inside juvenile youth facilities. CSM’s Project Change was the first community college-supported program of its kind in California. Yet, it will no longer be the only one, thanks to the work of local elected officials, Youth Law Center, and former CSM employee, Katie Bliss. Gavin Newsom has committed to ongoing annual funds of 15 million dollars in the state’s budget to support the replication of CSM’s Project Change across the state through the Rising Scholars Network.
The expansion of college courses inside county juvenile halls comes at a crucial time as the state Department of Juvenile Justice is set to close down, leaving local detention facilities with the challenge of housing and educating more young people until they turn 25. Project Change, which was launched in 2015 by a former juvenile justice-impacted teen and English teacher at College of San Mateo, aims to provide educational opportunities to incarcerated youth and help reduce recidivism rates. The program has been successful in changing the mindset of incarcerated youth and encouraging them to envision a brighter future through higher education.
Through the program, many students have found a renewed sense of purpose and ambition, realizing that they are capable of achieving higher education and a brighter future. Offering college courses to detained youth sends a powerful message about their potential and helps them prepare for life beyond incarceration.
To learn more about Project Change, view this recently published article (subscription may be required) from Mercury News.