Project Rebound students are now eligible for Pell Grants


It’s never too late to get a college degree, no matter what came before in your life.

Project Rebound is an educational program here at Cal Poly Humboldt helping formerly incarcerated students get their bachelor’s degree.

The program is offered throughout the California State University system, focusing on helping students continue their educational dreams.

“Tony Wallin-Soto who’s the current director, along with Steven Ladwig, who’s the director of the Transformative and Restorative Justice Center, they came together. Tony was doing a formerly incarcerated student club, and Project Rebound existed statewide, and we realized it was the perfect fit,” Project Rebound youth outreach specialist Mark Taylor said.

This chapter of the program is the newest one. It started in 2020 and 31 students are currently enrolled.

In the program, students can pursue or continue their passions to earn their degrees in all subjects offered at Cal Poly Humboldt.

Taylor got involved after experiencing success with the program for himself.

“I was actually a student in Project Rebound, still a student and an employee. We provide them with everything they need to graduate. They showed me how to file for FAFSA, which I didn’t know,” Taylor said. “They showed me how to apply to the university. Having experienced incarceration myself and having no familiarity with technology, so they helped me navigate that piece.”

This program hopes to break stereotypes.

“The stereotype of a lot of folks who are incarcerated is that they are not education-ready. In College of the Redwoods at Pelican Bay State Prison is teaching 40 college classes a semester,” Pelican Bay State Prison’s professor of communications Maxwell Schuner said. “There’s a lot of folks incarcerated that have dealt with accountability issues and are interested in learning a change their lives and turn them around.”

Cal Poly Humboldt is the first school in the nation to help formerly incarcerated students apply for Pell Grants, which can pay for their college education.

“[The] Federal government changed the rule to allow incarcerated students to get Pell Grants. One of the fears was that there would be predatory folks who would take advantage of that and the Department of Education has been carefully screening universities that would like to use Pell Grants; you have to get permission,” Schuner said. “I’m proud to say that Cal Poly is the first university in the nation to be approved to get Pell Grants for formerly incarcerated students.”

The Pell Grants set up the students for success as they continue to reach for their goals.

“It’s over $132,000 [a year] To keep someone in prison in the state of California. We feel we should implement programs in the California Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections that have a proven track record of rehabilitation. Education is one thing we know for absolute certainty that can drastically reduce recidivism rates, Taylor said.

A bachelor’s program is being offered at the Pelican Bay State Prison with a focus on communications.