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UC Davis program helps former inmates transition to college graduates

UC Davis program turns former inmates to college grads
UC Davis program turns former inmates to college grads 01:31

DAVIS — A new program at UC Davis is helping students make the transition from former inmates to college graduates.

The journey from incarceration to campus is not easy. Just ask Gunner Johnson.

"It's a rough transition. For myself, when I came home, I didn't know how to use technology," Johnson said. "I went to prison. I had a pager. When I got out, I had an iPhone and it was completely foreign to me."

Johnson is now the director of the Underground Scholars Initiative at UC Davis. It's a new program that supports formerly incarcerated students.

The dedicated space on campus offers students a sense of community, guidance, and even financial assistance.

"The most important thing that Underground Scholars provides is community, a group of formerly incarcerated students on campus we can lean on," Johnson said.

It's why Laurin Williams, who spent time in jail, is pursuing a degree in managerial economics. She hopes to one day own her own business.

"When you have a criminal history in your background, it's often hard to find a job," Williams said. "A degree opens more doors."

Jail may have been part of William's past, but she refuses to let it define her.

"When we come in there and share our stories, we give hope and inspiration," Johnson said. "We just want to support people and let them know what this is attainable."

The program is funded through an annual $490,000 state allocation over three years.

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