Tony Wallin holds the plaque recognizing the Humboldt State chapter of Project Rebound. For Wallin, the creation of this group was personal for Wallin as a formerly incarcerated student. | Photo by Carlos Holguin

Tackling incarceration with education

Project Rebound, seeks to help students on campus who have experienced incarceration
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Project Rebound, seeks to help students on campus who have experienced incarceration

Project Rebound was founded by John Erwin, Ph.D in 1967 at San Francisco State University, before it began to branch out to other campuses in the state. Erwin’s goal was to help students who were formerly incarcerated achieve educational success. This year, HSU joins the list of California State University’s to officially integrate the program.

For Program Coordinator Tony Wallin, the work done by the group is personal. Wallin, who recently graduated from HSU, came to the campus after his own run-ins with the law. When he arrived at HSU, Wallin said he didn’t feel entirely like he belonged.

“For a year, it was essentially just me, working by myself,” Wallin said.

After almost giving up his first year here, Wallin would go on to create the Formerly Incarcerated Students Club at HSU with encouragement and help from others.

Kory Lambert, office coordinator for Project Rebound, said he felt the same out of place feeling Wallin felt when he first arrived at HSU.

“When I first came to HSU, I don’t know if it was self imposed, but it took me a whole semester to learn about Oh SNAP!,” Lambert said. “I think people take it for granted, they know these programs are there but they don’t really think about them.”

Lambert is an environmental science major focusing on social justice with a minor in scientific diving. He is looking to study how disasters and natural events disproportionally affect marginalized communities.

Lambert had just turned 18 when he was arrested in 2013. The arrest lead to him being kicked out of his community college and off the football team.

“That set me on a way different path,” Lambert said. “It’s kind of a different experience from people who just never went through that.”

Project Rebound tackled these problems by working on programs that focus on education and prevention. Their motto “From G.E.D. to PhD” reinforces the idea of an inclusive education.

According to the official statement provided by HSU, Project Rebound has a “…95% graduation rate while the CSU system as a whole has a 25% rate who finish within four years and 61% within six.”

For many, getting a degree is the first step in being respected and taken seriously when trying to reintegrate into society.

“A degree is a piece of paper,” said Wallin. “But if you’ve been formerly incarcerated it makes people go ‘okay, I’ll listen to you.'”

Project Rebound has spent the summer writing to current Pelican Bay State Prison occupants who are interested in pursuing their education inside and outside of its walls.

According to Lambert, interest expressed by prisoners surround the possibility of voting and getting involved in politics. Proposition 17 on the California ballot would reinstate the voting rights of many formerly incarcerated individuals if passed.

Due to COVID-19 regulations, the group has not been able to visit the supermax prison in Crescent City in-person, but hope to host workshops on things like tuition and classes in the future.

Currently the group hosts regular Zoom meetings to discuss future events in addition to check-ins, and listening to anyone in need who has past incarceration history.

“It doesn’t matter if you’ve spent a day in jail or 30 days in prison,” Wallin said. “We don’t discriminate.”

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