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March 4, 2022

SFC Justice Initiative Launches Partnership with Guns for Grants

Rashid Littlejohn, founder of Guns for Grants, addresses the audience at the SFC open house while coordinator Jelani Wray looks on.

As set forth on its website, “Guns for Grants is an Educational Opportunity Program that focuses on redirecting at-risk youth and young adults away from gun violence and into positive learning environments for personal and professional growth, enriching their quality of life.” Participants in Guns for Grants will now have the opportunity to obtain a college degree through the St. Francis College (SFC) Justice Initiative.

The SFC Justice Initiative is a new program that originated with the SFC Post-Prison Program, established in 2014 to provide educational opportunities for justice-involved populations. The overall project of the SFC Justice Initiative is devoted to violence prevention, and it works extensively with a number of criminal justice and community-based organizations.

SFC’s Justice Initiative is rooted in the Franciscan values of forgiveness, second chances and building a better world. Since 2014, it has focused on helping individuals earn college degrees during the re-entry process. Students receive grants, intensive faculty mentorship, tutoring and social opportunities to foster community, build networks and promote academic success. The developing Guns for Grants partnership builds on this Franciscan approach to supporting vulnerable populations by responding to the increasing recognition that urgent, innovative approaches are needed to get guns off the street and decrease violence.

"Our Post-Prison Program has enrolled many students referred by state and federal criminal justice agencies, including Federal Probation, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, and state and privately funded re-entry organizations. These agencies are supportive of post-prison education and view it as a key option to decrease recidivism and support their clients,” explained Dr. Emily Horowitz, professor and chair of sociology and criminal justice at SFC and co-director of the Justice Initiative. “The Justice Initiative builds on this work and will continue to work to help those with criminal justice histories obtain college degrees.”

Those interested in applying to Justice Initiative programs must qualify for admission to SFC. To be considered for a program scholarship, the applicant must be eligible for full federal and state financial aid, as well as complete an interview with SFC's admissions staff, faculty members and program partners.

“We believe aligning with community-based organizations such as Guns for Grants will assist us in reaching a new and diverse student population to offer an additional pathway for future success. This new partnership will enhance our connections to non-profits and state and federal criminal justice agencies,” stated Eric Platt, associate professor and chair of economics, history and political science and co-director of the Justice Initiative.

A partnership kick-off event in the form of an open house/information session was held at SFC on March 3. In announcing his organization's new partnership with SFC, Rashid Littlejohn, founder of Guns for Grants, told attendees, “I’m thankful for St. Francis and the work they are doing helping people put themselves back together after going through the [prison] system. They understand the communities that need support.” Littlejohn, along with coordinator Jelani Wray, view Guns for Grants as an educational opportunity program that changes lives in a truly transformative way. “Our partnership with St. Francis can be a model for communities throughout the country to decrease violence and save lives,” said Wray.

Representatives from the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office, City Council, State Assembly, State Senate and the Mayor’s Action Plan were in attendance at the event. Those interested in learning more about the Justice Initiative and their Post-Prison and Guns for Grants projects can email [email protected].

See the segment that aired on News 12 on March 3, 2022.

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