Our commitment is about providing a holistic model for transitional housing for ex-con youth. The goal is to create a social venture, a café, where ex-cons will work and live in the building, while the profits are used to finance various types of training and assistance programs for them.
CGI U was a great opportunity to network with students from all over the world that were doing something to change the world. The event was exciting since we knew we’d not only get to see the Clintons but also peace noble price awardees, the Pussy Riot and Larry Wilmore. Working and skills sessions were well-designed and allowed each student to focus on what they wanted to. I had the chance to discuss the specific role and potential of women in peace-building and to meet Abigail E. Disney, the producer of ‘Pray the devil back to hell’.
For my CGI U commitment, I set out to reduce the rate of youth recidivism into prison by providing a holistic reentry program that provides housing, employment, and mentorship. The goal was to have a café on the main floor of a building with independent housing units above. Each resident employee would have to go through an application process that would help us pair him or her up with a mentor in the community. The café would be called “Café Phoenix”. While I learned a lot about the process of starting a business, connecting with existing platforms for reentry, and finding out what resources the DC government had to offer through grants, I also realized that I do not want to be a business owner. I’m not cut out to be in one place for 3+ years. What I think I could offer with the seed funding that might be more helpful and sustainable as a CGI U commitment will be to connect existing organizations that focus on reentry. I would like to host an event to bring various players from the private, public, and nonprofit sectors together with those who have successfully transitioned from prison in order to design better resources for those who are preparing to leave prison.
One of the moments when I realized that my commitment could be better if it were aimed at connecting people rather than creating a venue was when I met some people at CGI U who were equally interested in focusing on job training and recidivism prevention. There are several brilliant, enthusiastic, and savvy people who want to make this issue a focus for their lives. Back in DC and through my research, I have found countless organizations that employ, promote, empower, and educate people as they leave prison. If we can all work together to compile individual services into something that can be scaled up, the result will be greater than the sum of the parts. I agree with many of the brilliant CGI U speakers that each person should stand up for what they believe in, and I feel that my job is to make sure people are standing together and working hand and hand. One of the most common themes from the whole conference was that the bridge to any gap was possible through human interaction. Therefore, connecting people is the first step in global development. I am grateful to have been a participant at CGI U, and I hope that the point of view I shared will help some of the other people I met as much as they helped me.