Victoria Carty, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology in the Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, is familiar with the educational obstacles faced by formerly incarcerated teens.

“Once juveniles get released, no one is forcing them to go to school, and on top of that, there’s all of these forks in the road to get to college,” said Carty, whose research focuses on community engagement and criminal justice reform. “Most of the time, these students really just need an opportunity.”

Addressing this need, Carty teamed up with the Orange-based nonprofit, Underground GRIT (UG), to provide formerly incarcerated youths with courses taught by Chapman University faculty. The Chapman-UG partnership is an extension of Underground GRIT’s reentry program, where the organization assists those who have been system-impacted through services like education, mentorship, vocational training and mental health support.

Chapman President Daniele Struppa is one of the faculty members currently participating in the program. “I teach math to the students every Saturday morning. 8:30 to 10:30, they are there, bright-eyed, listening to math. Their commitment, their resilience, their desire to build the foundation for a different life is tremendous,” he said.

“Our goal is to break the school-to-prison pipeline, and get the students thinking about new possibilities, college, and a promising future,” said Carty. “Most of the focus has been on the crime itself and not on why are people getting in trouble with the law? Or why are people dropping out of school? If you pay attention to them, make them job ready, make them school ready, a big difference can be made.”