Project Rebound director aims to give hope to formerly incarcerated students


Jose Gaglianone - The State Hornet

Andrew Winn, the director of Project Rebound, sits in his office in Alpine 114 on Feb. 19. Winn was hired as the director in October 2017.

Jose Gaglianone

Andrew Winn was homeless after being incarcerated for much of his 20s and 30s. Now Sacramento State has named him as its director of Project Rebound, a program that seeks to help formerly-incarcerated students get through college and achieve their career goals.

Winn was incarcerated on an involuntary manslaughter charge after a fight. He went to prison at the Correctional Training Facility in Soledad.

When Winn was released, he became homeless. The prison dropped him off in Salinas and gave him $200. He used the $200 to buy a phone and a bus ticket back to Sacramento.

On the bus ride from Salinas to Sacramento, he used the phone to call people trying desperately to find a place to stay.

“I was on that phone calling people and seeing if I could find a bed somewhere,” Winn said. “I didn’t have anywhere to go.”

Winn’s friend allowed Winn to stay at his place for a couple of nights. He started to look for jobs, and he eventually found one. He worked for a month, and he said he was told there would be money in the future. He said he never saw a paycheck and quit the job.

Winn said that what helped him move forward was being able to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Jenifer Leonesio, a staffer with Project Rebound, took Winn to his first AA meeting.

Winn didn’t have any money so he needed to find a way to look for jobs. Winn said he signed up for community college to get a bus pass for $5 to help him find a job.

Winn signed up for two classes at Sacramento City College and got A’s in both. He enjoyed taking the classes so much that he enrolled in more classes.

After finishing at Sac City College, Winn applied to four UC schools and was accepted into UCLA.

“I chose UCLA because I felt as somebody who was formerly incarcerated, I have to shed this old skin and try to remake myself,” Winn said. “I felt that UCLA was the place that I can do that.”

While attending UCLA, Winn co-founded the Underground Scholars Initiative, in which he was able to help students who were formerly incarcerated. He also became a leader of the Justice Work Group, which focused on prison education and provided political opportunities.

Winn said that the Underground Scholars Initiative gave tours to students to help them assimilate to college life by helping them become familiar with the campus.

Winn helped organize a rally for Prop. 57, which afforded educational credits to those in prison. He also helped to organize the Beyond the Bars Conference in Los Angeles, where students, faculty, community members, and those who have been incarcerated could network and work toward ending mass incarceration.

He came back to Sacramento after graduating from UCLA in June 2017.

As director of Project Rebound, Winn is responsible for grant writing and fundraising.

Project Rebound provides educational resources and planning for students looking to develop professional skills. The program is funded by The Opportunity Institute’s Renewing Communities initiative and by Associated Students, Inc., according to Winn.

The project is a “safe space” for students with similar backgrounds to share their experiences and support one another, according to Leonesio.

Student assistant Karessa Cohron said that Project Rebound helped her pay for books and testing fees and has aided her in developing professional skills.

“I think being a member of Project Rebound has completely changed my college experience,” Cohron said.

Winn said that most students who have been formerly incarcerated believe they can only get careers in alcohol and drug treatment, but he wants to change that mindset. He said that he wants to give students the ability to enter the career field they would prefer.

“(I try to) encourage those here to go ahead and go after your dreams no matter what (they may) be, whether it is going to law school and eventually becoming an attorney or working in the legislature as a staffer,” Winn said.

Winn helped to encourage Cohron to apply for a social work master’s program at UC Berkeley. Cohron said she didn’t think she had what it took to apply, but Winn nudged her in the right direction.

“He hooked me up with one of his friends that’s also part of the movement (in Berkeley) and a professor that reviews the applications,” Cohron said. “He encouraged me to apply even though I didn’t think I could.”

Winn wants the staff at Project Rebound to build trust with students. He said that formerly-incarcerated students often distrust institutions, including the school system.

Winn has also given the staff the ability to participate in the Beyond the Bars Conference at Columbia University in New York. The trip will be funded by ASI and some staff members will receive scholarships from Columbia University to attend.

“I think Andrew (Winn) has helped Project Rebound to grow a lot more than what it was before,” Leonesio said.