Date of Award


Access Restriction


Degree Name

Doctorate in Education



School or College

School of Education

First Advisor

Elizabeth O. Reilly

Second Advisor

Darin Earley

Third Advisor

Kyra Pearson


This study uplifted the stories of formerly incarcerated and/or system-impacted students attending a California community college (i.e., “Rising Scholars”) to provide qualitative context to a growing literature following the state’s promotion of support programs at the University of California (UC), California State University (CSU), and California Community Colleges (CCC) systems. This study interviewed six formerly incarcerated/system impacted Rising Scholars using a narrative inquiry methodology with a theoretical framework of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Desistance theory to inquire about their educational experiences before and during their enrollment at an urban California community college with reentry support. Key themes in the interviews include trauma in early educational experiences, dropping out of college, the gendered experiences of formerly incarcerated women, the role of pregnancy and parenthood as a turning point, and authentic care expressed by the support staff. The narratives of the participants are offered as a counter-narrative to the quantitative neoliberal practice of justifying reentry programs based solely on reductions in recidivism rates.

Recommendations include increasing trauma-informed pedagogy in TK-12 and Postsecondary education, recruiting and educating more allies for Rising Scholars on campus, ensuring that campus reentry support programs fully meet the needs of female Rising Scholars, and uplifting successes and scholarship by Rising Scholars to build lasting structural support for the Rising Scholars Network.