A Beach education is an accessible pathway to heightened social mobility and personal transformation.

Access to The Beach Fuels Reintegration and New Beginnings  

It took Wynn Nguyen a couple of tries to get her B.S. in social work. Addiction and incarceration got in the way more than once, and her first acceptance into CSULB right after high school did not last long.  

Nguyen’s addictions, she said, “really took me to a place I never thought I’d go.”  

After her last prison term, she got help for her addictions and re-matriculated at The Beach. She connected with Project Rebound, a CSU-wide program that helps formerly incarcerated individuals transform their lives through higher education. Through the program, she received a scholarship that covered tuition, books and technology expenses for a year. 

“Having a group of people who understand what it’s like to be formerly incarcerated gives me hope to make positive changes,” Nguyen said.  

At Cal State Long Beach, about 95 students have benefited from Project Rebound, which provides scholarships, internships, basic needs, counseling, pro bono legal services and academic advising. The program helps to remove barriers toward personal and professional empowerment, opening doors for success at The Beach and beyond.  

There has also been a special effort at CSULB’s Project Rebound to make it more gender equitable. In the United States, men far outnumber women in the prison system. At CSULB, 32.3% of current participants in Project Rebound identify as female. 

Dr. James Binall, executive director of Project Rebound at The Beach, credits Project Rebound Director Irene Sotelo for the program’s successful reach to women. She co-founded the student organization Rising Scholars in 2017, which served as the springboard for Project Rebound. Sotelo has organized women’s gatherings and has actively promoted education and higher education in area women’s jails and juvenile halls.   

“We’re noticing there are a lot more women in our program,” said Sotelo, herself a formerly incarcerated and homeless CSULB graduate with two degrees, including a master’s in social work. “It’s easy for a male to go right back to work after prison. For a woman, it’s hard to get jobs, to get a degree – there’s a stigma attached to having a criminal record. Now, there are more opportunities for men and for women.”   

The program, as with others at The Beach, helps to level the playing field for students in need of assistance by building community and opening doors to opportunity. 

“As a person in recovery from addiction, I was drawn to work with other individuals struggling with substance use disorder,” said Nguyen. “I knew I would be able to use my experience to help others. I decided that I wanted to pursue a degree in social work so that I could continue to improve on my skills to help others and be an agent of change.”