SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Allan Hancock College’s Beyond Incarceration Greater Education (BIGE) Club plans to expand its existing outreach to 'at-promise' youth, thanks to a $10,000 grant from The Fund for Santa Barbara.
BIGE club President and co-founder Arturo "Cheech" Raygoza said this award will help stop young people from thinking they only have a few choices in life and show them education and a career are within reach.
“Why are we waiting for them to get to prison to find out what we have to offer,” said Raygoza. “I tell these boys, you want to learn how to get up at 5 in the morning do burpees and roll up your mattress, I can show you that. But if you want to get a higher education, I can show you that too, the choice is yours. ”
The grant enables BIGE to spread a wider message. “It will also allow us to help educate our community and break the stigma and negative stereotypes about formerly incarcerated individuals.”
The Fund for Santa Barbara felt BIGE's mission aligned with their purpose.
Grant making committee member Feliciano Aguilar said, “We feel that impacting this change, the impact of these programs last a lot longer even after the dollars are spent.”
Raygoza has spent 13 years behind bars, but this summer he will receive his degree from Allan Hancock College. He helped establish BIGE on-campus in 2016 to create a support network for formerly incarcerated students and space for students to share their experiences, find college resources and a sense of community.
Some of the grant dollars will also be used to provide emergency funds to help formerly incarcerated students pay for textbooks, transportation, food and other financial burdens that could interfere with their college and career aspirations.