Collective Effort Makes Project Rebound a Reality
By Eric Breier
Xuan Santos has long advocated for increased representation at Cal State San Marcos of students who are formerly incarcerated or system impacted.
As Santos, an associate professor of sociology, was completing his tenure process two years ago, he began looking at ways to provide more support on campus. At the top of his wish list was bringing Project Rebound, a program that supports students transitioning out of prison, to CSUSM.
As part of his efforts, Santos visited San Diego State to meet with members of its chapter of Project Rebound. It was only then that he realized how daunting it would be working by himself to launch the program at CSUSM.
But Santos soon discovered that he wasn’t alone in wanting to see Project Rebound become a reality at CSUSM.
After a summer spent learning about SDSU’s program, Santos returned to the classroom in fall 2017 and told students in his Sociology 322 course, “Critical Perspectives of Gangs,” about his ambition. To Santos’ surprise, one of his students, Yomira Zamora, said she had been working toward that very goal.
“She showed me a folder with everything she had researched,” Santos said. “I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. People are already working on this.’ ”
Santos, Zamora, Martín Leyva and numerous supporters from across campus are seeing that dream realized as Project Rebound launches this fall. The program is being led by Leyva, who received his Master of Arts in Sociological Practice from CSUSM in 2018 and is himself formerly incarcerated.
“You watch Martín work with students, you watch him work with formerly incarcerated people, and you see why we have what we have now,” said Christopher Bickel, an associate professor of sociology who was part of the search committee that selected Leyva.
“You can have a great program like Project Rebound, and it’s great on paper. But if you don’t have a director who knows the experience of formerly incarcerated students, that program is going to fall flat. We have people like Martín who are very sensitive to the needs of formerly incarcerated students.”
I think we will be a leader in the nation, especially with Martín at the helm, of creating that prison-to-school pipeline.