The program director and an alum of Rising Scholars spoke to state officials about the thriving program for formerly incarcerated students at Palomar College.

SAN MARCOS — Two representatives of Palomar College’s Rising Scholars program presented to the California Community College Board of Governors and Interim Chancellor Dr. Daisy Gonzales during a trip to Sacramento on Monday, January 23, 2023.

Nora Kenney, the Interim Director of Occupational and Noncredit Programs at Palomar, was accompanied by Luis Jimenez, a formerly incarcerated student and Peer Mentor in the Rising Scholars program.

The two provided an informative glimpse into the inner workings of one of the state’s leading “Rising Scholars” programs, which began in 2018 as “Transitions” and has grown to include about 200 students and alumni in the past five years.

“Whether students enroll in our summer program or during the academic year, we’re able to provide wrap-around services to students and even help with basic needs,” Kenney said during her presentation. “Campus and community partnerships are vital and peer mentors are at the heart of our program. These peer mentors work closely with students and help them navigate in- and out-of-school challenges.

“Our peer mentors also provide critical modeling, since most of them have been incarcerated and all are excelling academically,” she added.

Rising Scholars is focused on preparing formerly incarcerated and justice-impacted students for careers, increasing participants’ transfer rates, and reducing equity gaps in higher education.

With the re-opening of campus following the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2022, Rising Scholars—which had been operating remotely, like academic programs across the state—began a season of significant growth, Kenney informed the Board of Governors.

The program is expected to move into its first permanent location at Palomar’s main campus in San Marcos during the Spring semester.

“I could not be more proud of the Rising Scholars program, which crystallizes the mission, vision, and values of Palomar College. Our doors are open to all students,” said Dr. Star Rivera-Lacey, Superintendent/President of Palomar College.

Rising Scholars is also featured in a new documentary by Palomar College Television (PCTV) entitled, “Almost Home: Life After Incarceration.”

“Rising Scholars is about equity and access, and our program encapsulates the very essence of community college: Here, students get second, third, and fourth chances to remap their lives,” said Kenney.