Improving Service, Understanding for those Impacted by the Criminal Legal System

man reading book behind bars shown in silohouette (courtesy of Shutterstock)

The State University of New York at Old Westbury has been selected to receive THRIVE training from   College & Community Fellowship (CCF) to provide training to members of its faculty and staff to improve their abilities to ensure the successful reintegration of students who have been impacted by the criminal legal system.

SUNY Old Westbury is the first SUNY campus to receive the THRIVE Technical Assistance  training from CCF, a leading nonprofit dedicated to aiding women with criminal histories who are seeking to transform their lives through access to higher education, and helps communities eliminate systemic opportunity barriers broadly.

“SUNY Old Westbury is an institution founded on the belief that all people should have access to the transformative power of higher education,” said Timothy E. Sams, SUNY Old Westbury’s president. “With our historic commitment to social justice and equity, it makes great sense that we help our team be better prepared to support students impacted by experiences with the criminal justice system. We are grateful to CCF for selecting us for this impactful opportunity.”

Offered through CCF, the THRIVE technical assistance and coaching program, will focus on developing the skills and understanding of key information and techniques needed to help Old Westbury strengthen its role as an inclusive institution prepared to serve and educate those seeking a second chance.

“CCF recognized this as an opportune time to support SUNY Old Westbury in helping to change the stigma that in the past challenged the State University of New York system,” said Maria Santangelo, acting deputy executive director of CCF, referencing the 2018 removal of the requirement that applicants report felony convictions when seeking admission to a SUNY campus. ”Beyond CCF’s national technical assistance work, we have a policy and advocacy component that focuses on systemic change by advocating for policy changes that advance social justice in our communities and programs that support individual change through post-secondary education support services.”

In November, faculty and staff at SUNY Old Westbury began receiving training and coaching through THRIVE. The partnership with CCF includes support services for a year, and encourages of the expansion of the training to students, and the community.

“SUNY Old Westbury’s participation in THRIVE will help advance the mission of the college, by strengthening the culture of the institution to be more supportive of all students, including criminal justice-impacted students,” said Lettisha Boyd, interim director of college and career programs at CCF.  “THRIVE is committed to helping change -agents within SUNY Old Westbury’s faculty and staff to create a more inclusive and supportive campus by enhancing SUNY’s current diversity initiatives.  Unlike the surrounding New York City, Long Island has limited support services within its community, especially post-secondary education support programs. The SUNY Old Westbury/ THRIVE partnership can be the bridge to potentially support more SUNY campuses.” 

Through the THRIVE training, SUNY Old Westbury will seek improvements in graduation rates of non-traditional students who ultimately help strengthen their home communities. President Sams continues, “the shifting employment landscape to ‘green’ and STEM-based careers and corresponding workforce development efforts requires schools like SUNY Old Westbury to constantly innovate its educational model in a way that ensures the widest possible access to jobs of the future.”  

With the restoration of Pell inside of prisons, another successful CCF policy initiative, colleges need to be equipped to support students who will be returning with college credits to college campuses. 

By taking part in the THRIVE Training Program, SUNY Old Westbury joins a long list of organizations that includes the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, the Tennessee Higher Education Initiative, and several campuses of the City University of New York.  

About College & Community Fellowship

College & Community Fellowship (CCF) enables women with criminal justice histories to earn their college degrees so that they, their families, and their communities can thrive. For over 20 years, CCF has increased access to higher education for students who experience roadblocks based on ties to the criminal legal system. CCF has grounded its work in racial, gender, and economic justice through partnerships in the academic, policy, government, and grassroots activism communities and works at the individual (College & Career), institutional (technical assistance), and systemic levels (Policy & Advocacy).

About SUNY Old Westbury

SUNY Old Westbury is a college where students with a passion for learning are empowered through excellence to thrive in, and help build, a more just, sustainable world. As Long Island’s only public liberal arts college, SUNY Old Westbury challenges its students to own their futures through an environment that demands academic excellence and fosters intercultural understanding. As members of the most diverse student body in the SUNY system, the College's more than 4,200 students study in nearly 50 undergraduate degree opportunities in Old Westbury’s liberal arts and professional programs and 16 graduate programs in business, data science, education, liberal studies and mental health counseling.  For more information on SUNY Old Westbury, visit