By Greg Zeman
Alycia Williams is a Second Chance Program success story. When she first entered the program in 2007 she was homeless and lived in shelters or on the street. Now she supports herself, is reunited with her family and actively involved in the kind of outreach that helped change her life.
For individuals who have been caught up in the criminal justice system, the Second Chance Program is just that — a second chance. “The EOPS Second Chance Program is specifically designed to recruit and support formerly incarcerated individuals currently within the criminal justice system who wish to achieve their educational and vocational goals within City College of San Francisco,” according to the City College website.
“Just through education alone, I was able to get my own place,” Williams said. “It was like a spiral effect of nothing but positivity in my life — just making the decision to go back to school.”
Williams is a City College student and a recipient of the Antonio Guiuan Memorial Scholarship as well as the San Mateo county HOPE Leadership Award. She is currently being certified as an Alcohol and Drug Educator. As part of her internship, she is working with the San Bruno Jail, reaching out to incarcerated individuals.
In the past, Second Chance has actively sought out new students. “I was introduced to the program through a guy named Charles Moore.” Williams said.
Charles Moore is in charge of outreach and recruitment at the Second Chance Program. He still actively seeks out students who he hopes will be able to replicate the kind of success seen with Williams.
Moore is a program graduate himself. After being arrested at 13 for stealing a car, Moore became entangled in a lifestyle of delinquency and violence. He then found moral clarity in the church and was ordained as a Pentecostal minister. In 1976, he was hired by City College as the Second Chance outreach coordinator and peer adviser.
“He pretty much took me up under his wing and got me involved in the City College community,” Williams said of Moore. “He personally took me around to different resource areas and explained to me what my options were. That made me even more hungry and gave me the outlook that I could succeed in college.”
“[As a parolee], you already have strikes against you. When you get out-without family or friends- you come back here with what’s on your back. That’s why so many wind up going back in,” Moore told Etc. Magazine in Fall 2006.
In the same article, EOPS director Alvin Jenkins said, “Imagine being locked up for five or ten years and dropped off in downtown San Francisco with $200. It’s pretty frightening to think about.” The Second Chance Program tries to ease the transition back into society and provide assistance and support.
“Just being a part of the Second Chance Program opened the door for so many other opportunities for me,” Williams said. “It’s just been wonderful, and I’m continuing to grow. Basically, the Second Chance Program planted the seed I needed to get where I am today.”
“Last year we had 138 Second Chance students,” said Roland Montemayor, associate dean of financial aid. “Our retention, those that complete 9 units with a 2.0 GPA and continue onto the next year, was 67 percent.”
Despite its past success, the EOPS office has suffered severe cutbacks in the face of the budget shortfall.
When Williams was a Second Chance student, EOPS provided financial assistance to students in addition to whatever financial aid they received. This assistance came in the form of cafeteria food vouchers, public transportation vouchers and money for textbooks.
“These are the longest lines I’ve ever seen and I’ve been working at Financial Aid for over 25 years,” said Jorge Bell, dean of financial aid, EOPS and CalWORKS services. “The programs here like EOPS, Second Chance, CARE and CalWORKS — all of them were cut. So there’s nowhere for the students to get books or supplies.”
“EOPS normally has between $400,000 and $500,000 in book services, and that’s gone. So that’s pretty significant,” Montemayor said. “Students who have completed nine units and made their three contacts, with Second Chance or EOPS [counselors] will get $100. That’s really the best we can do. It’s something.”
According to Bell, the department’s strategy was to minimize services during the summer semester to stockpile funding for fall.
“The overload was gone in the summer,” Bell said. “We only had the clerical support staff working in the summertime, so all that money that we were able to save we gave to the students in the form of books.”
Despite the budget constraints, the EOPS department is doing all it can to help.
“We’ll do the initial counseling and make sure they have the right classes and that’s pretty much all we’re able to do. There are programs that are available, but we don’t have any additional resources,” Roland said. He added there was a class specifically for Second Chance students with 25-30 students enrolled this semester.
Bell stressed that the Financial Aid office was still a place with resources available to students.
“I would say about 99% of anyone who applies for financial aid gets some kind of financial aid,” Bell said. “It might be a fee waiver. It might be a loan. It might be employment work study. It might be a grant. Not all of them will get a grant, but most of them will end up getting a fee waiver or something.”
“We’re looking for external money,” Roland said. He spoke of the possibility of, “creating an advisory committee for Second Chance and having that be an advocacy group for how we can pursue other funds that are available.”
For the time being, any services provided by EOPS are not open to new students.
“We are currently not accepting applications for any prospective EOPS students,” EOPS director Alvin Jenkins wrote in an e-mail to The Guardsman. “We do not know when we will be able to admit new Second Chance students to EOPS.”
Jenkins declined to be interviewed for this story.