2015-16 Beyond the Bars Fellows and Columbia Students Leyla Martinez (GS) and Christopher Medina-Kirchner (Bridge to PhD Program in the Natural Sciences) were featured in a new report released yesterday from the U.S. Department of Education, Beyond the Box: Increasing Access to Higher Education for Justice-Involved Individuals, encouraging “alternatives to inquiring about criminal histories during college admissions and provides recommendations to support a holistic review of applicants.” The report included student spotlights from both Ms. Martinez and Mr. Medina-Kirchner, marking the first time the Department included students spotlights in their reports. Both also gave input to Department officials throughout the development of the report, as did several other Beyond the Bars Fellows. In addition they were invited to speak at the release of the report at UCLA. A fact sheet from the report can be accessed here.
Student Spotlight Excerpt from Leyla Martinez
“I thought to myself, ‘why apply?’ They are just going to reject me. I felt like the goal I set to show my son—it was worth trying—was unrealistic…so I stopped my application.
Fortunately, I had shared what I was doing with my friends who insisted that I finish the application. I did, but did not reply in the way they were asking. They wanted to know about my crime, but I told them about my accomplishments since being home. I told them about the struggles of being a single mom and a victim of domestic violence. I told them about how I earned a 3.9 GPA at the small public college I was attending after a ten year hiatus from school. I told them about my work with my state senators and local assemblymen as an advocate for continued funding for low-income individuals to continue their pursuit of higher education.”
Student Spotlight Excerpt from Christopher Medina-Kirchner
“My life is really an amazing story about persistence, motivation, and overcoming adversity. Unfortunately, the process made me not only keep the story out of my personal statement, but also out of any conversation for fear of the consequence and stigma associated with having a criminal record.”
The full spotlights and transcripts are available in the report.