Through postsecondary education, formerly incarcerated Latinx students can create social and economic mobility. The issue is to explore the disparities that formerly incarcerated Latinx students face in the postsecondary educational system.
Educational institutions can help system impacted students in several ways. Specifically, institutions can recruit, retain, and advocate for policy/programming for formerly incarcerated students. In some states, correctional facilities are looking towards their counterparts at community colleges to develop an educational pathway with either educational programs inside prisons and/or a ‘next phase’ program that transitions a student after release to community college.
System impacted students are faced with several challenges. Aside from having a fixed identity and not quite identify as a student, as correctional facilities force them to have different identities. Challenges include food and housing insecurities; some formerly incarcerated students may face discrimination when attempting to secure housing due to perceived stereotypes. Another challenge is mental health, students from this population may face intergenerational trauma from first-hand experiences of the school-to-prison pipeline and aspects of their prior identity may be triggered as they are transitioning/intersecting with their student identity.
As practitioners and educators advocate for formerly incarcerated Latinx students, these students need several resources on campus. A few of those resources could include: a physical space to meet with their peers to create a sense of belonging on campus; a regular mental health facilitator to assist with their peer circle; community resources for food, housing, and transportation; and priority housing at 4-year institutions.
An ideal program would meet system impacted students where they are, provide social preparedness opportunities through programing and workshops. For example, as technology advances quickly, system impacted students are faced with a technology gap and may not be familiar with the uploading features on Blackboard.
Lastly, system impacted students are already on our campuses. It is important we are mindful of the stereotypes and microaggressions these students are faced with on our campuses. The importance of their success can greatly impact their self, their family, community, and overall society.
About the Author:
Melissa Abeyta is a doctoral student at San Diego State University and a Research Associate with SDSU’s Community College Equity Assessment Lab (CCEAL).
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