Program helps formerly incarcerated people graduate college

FRESNO, Calif. -- A program in California is helping formerly incarcerated people change their lives and graduate from college.

"I've changed who I am and where I'm going. I don't want to be the person that I was before, I don't want to commit crimes... I want to be a contributing member to my society," said Aaron Greene.

Greene went to jail for possession of meth, later going to prison for theft after he got out of jail. After a three-year stint, he decided he wanted to change his life. He eventually found Project Rebound.

"Project Rebound is a student-support services program at 14 of the 23 California State University campuses that helps formerly incarcerated individuals use higher education as tools to successfully matriculate back into the community," said Jennifer Leahy, program director of the program at Fresno State.

"Every student has challenges on campus... but what is a speed bump for another student becomes a brick wall for someone who's formerly incarcerated," she said.

"Having this program behind me with them knowing my background and pushing me to succeed was definitely a positive," said Daniel Gamez, who graduated with his bachelor's degree.

There were four students in Project Rebound at Fresno State in 2016. This year, there were 40 registered students, and the group held a graduation party to celebrate those who earned their degrees, including Greene, who earned his master's degree.

"There's a change that comes along with education," he said. "This program has shown me that I can be something different. That I'm not Aaron the thief, I'm Aaron the educated, I'm Aaron the academic, I'm Aaron the professor at Fresno State."

"I'm a different person," Greene said. "Please let me show you."

To learn more about Project Rebound, click here.