Spotlight: From Incarceration to Graduation!
Open Gate, Inc. is an Oakland based non -profit organization that has established California’s first jail-to-college pipeline from Santa Rita County Jail to Chabot College, Hayward. Through their organization, formerly incarcerated individuals have the opportunity to gain the skills to reenter society and their community through education and vocational training. They are in their 5th successful semester with 30 full-time students, 3 transfers to UC Berkeley and CSUEB, and 0% recidivism. They teach weekly workshops in Santa Rita Jail and are the first point of contact for newly released inmates who want to continue their education.
We heard from Denise Richardson, the Co-Founder and President of Open Gate, Inc to learn more about their pipeline to graduation, the importance of reading for the whole family, and the roles that parents can have in promoting reading and learning to their children. We know that parent engagement and strengthening of families is important for literacy…
But what do you see as the intersection of Open Gate’s and OLC’s mission of supporting Oakland children and families to learn and love to read?
We put free, quality, appealing and age appropriate books into the hands of our students and show them how to use these books to connect with the children in their lives. As our students grow in their confidence to read, rap and rhyme to their children, the children in turn learn to associate reading time with close bonds and fun. We believe that this process is worth its weight in gold!
What do you see is the connection to literacy and your organization?
Most of our students have children in their lives; they are fathers, uncles, brothers, step-fathers and grandfathers. Time spent incarcerated is time spent away from their families, and they can become distant and estranged, particularly if the family fragments during incarceration. We teach our students how to reconnect with their children through sharing children’s’ books, with one-on-one high quality focused and fun reading time. Our workshops are supported by our formerly incarcerated Open Gate employees who are themselves formerly incarcerated and who have successfully navigated this challenging path of family reunification. We also refer students who need help with improving their literacy skills to OPL’s Second Start program, where they can connect with their own tutor and receive confidential support.
Why is serving Oakland important to Open Gate?
Most of our students live in Oakland and are motivated to rejoin their communities, reconnect with their families and give back. Our partnership with OLC helps us to help them achieve these goals. Our recidivism rate for the 2017/18 academic year is 0%, and we believe that is a huge benefit to the city of Oakland.
How did you first hear about the OLC and why have you stayed involved?
We heard about OLC though our community partner, Oakland Public Library, and have stayed involved as we see our students and their families benefit so much from reconnecting through books and shared reading time.
Last question, if you could describe Open Gate in a few words what would they be?
From Incarceration to Graduation!