Co-Founder of Re-Emerging Scholars
Tell us a little about yourself:
I've spent pretty much my entire life in the greater Sacramento area with the exception of a small break for college in Southern California. I currently live out in Wilton, California where we have a small homestead farm complete with chickens and goats. For the past seven years, I have worked at Sacramento City College as a Professor of Sociology.
How are you making a difference in your community?
Together with my colleague, Nich Miller, we started a re-entry program on campus called Re-Emerging Scholars. This program helps formerly incarcerated individuals reintegrate into society by guiding them through their college coursework and provides the academic, personal, and emotional support needed for them to be successful. Upon completion of our one year program, our students fulfill the vast majority of their required course work for a transfer degree to a four year university, receive a semester long internship to develop their professional skills and resume, and become part of a new peer network of positive role models from similar backgrounds.
What issues are you most passionate about?
Far too often we look down at people that are involved in the criminal justice system, but we have all made mistakes or are one bad decision away from finding ourselves in a similar situation. Our students are passionate, caring, thoughtful people that deserve a second chance.
What inspires your community efforts?
Before starting our program, some of my students disclosed that they were formerly incarcerated. I witnessed first-hand just how passionate many of these students were about bettering their lives, but I also saw just how hard it was to walk this new path without any support. I wanted to find a way to match their enthusiasm for positive change with the level of success that I knew they were capable of.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
One of our students that struggled with addiction was unsuccessful in his first stint in rehab. After entering the program, he found meaning in sobriety and has made amazing changes to his life. He now has custody of his daughter, serves as an intern in the program, maintains a 3.5 GPA, and is on his way to UC Berkeley to continue his studies! He went from a cautionary tale to a positive role model that gives speeches to probation officers.
What have you struggled most with in your life?
It is difficult to maintain the same passion and enthusiasm day in and day out when tackling such a huge project. There are days where you are unsuccessful in making a positive change or when the challenges seem insurmountable. It is in these times, that I try to make sure that I spend some extra time with my students as they remind me exactly why I do what I do and push me to redouble my efforts.
What kind of lessons do you think are important to instill in future generations?
I do my best to teach my daughters that we should not judge others by the misdeeds of their past, but by what they are doing now. Rather than labeling someone a lost cause, allow them a chance at redemption because we will all need that second chance at some point in our lives.
If there is one problem in our community that you wish you could fix, what would it be?
One of the topics of discussion in class was empathy. I was inspired by just how much my students had for each other and others in the community when they have so often been met with apathy throughout their lives. I believe that we could all learn a lesson from my students and endeavor to be a little more kind and open to those around us.
How do you decompress?
The best decompression tends to be beating myself up! I enjoy heavy weights, long runs and really want to get back into combat sports.