OAKLAND, CA – On the evening of February 6th at the Eastside Arts Alliance, BOSS staff and staff from partnering agencies gathered to celebrate the achievement of seven special graduates – citizens returning from incarceration who have completed the pilot BOSS Social Justice Collective (SJC) Innovations Project!

In 2019 BOSS received a grant from Alameda County Innovations in Reentry to answer the learning question, Does civic involvement and participation in healing and arts activities reduce prison recidivism? To help answer this question, BOSS created a project in partnership with Just Cities and Eastside Arts Alliance that is providing a mix of learning and engagement activities to cohorts of ten reentry participants at a time.

The first cohort took part in twenty weeks of classes, including: weekly classes on social justice issues (history of social justice movements, public education and grassroots organizing techniques, public speaking/storytelling, overcoming limiting beliefs) led by John Jones from Just Cities and Tim Smith from BOSS; arts and culture activity classes led by Elana Serrano from Eastside Arts Alliance; and restorative justice healing circles led by Community Works West.

Cohort participants also attended meetings of the Community Corrections Partnership, including Executive Committee, Fiscal and Procurement, Programs and Services, and Process and Evaluation, which helped them learn about the reentry system, how it works, how decisions are made, and how they can have an impact by sharing their experiences.

Seven of the original group completed the entire series and were celebrated at the February 6th Graduation! The event, held on-site at Eastside Arts Alliance, included remarks by all workshop instructors as well as BOSS Executive Director Donald Frazier and Tim Smith, BOSS Director of Reentry Strategic Partnerships. All Innovations graduates spoke as well, and shared their gratitude and their pride at completing the training.

All graduates received a Certificate of Completion, and a gift bag that included a BOSS cap, water bottle, keychain, and pin, and an RCA 7” tablet! Dinner was catered by Flipnsoul, and all graduates received a gift bag that included BOSS swag and an RCA 7” tablet!

We are excited to see what these graduates do next, and how they share their enhanced insight and grassroots organizing skills for their own personal development and to help change the system!

[Pictured above: participants in BOSS social justice class]

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For more information on the Innovations Project, contact Tim Smith, BOSS Director of Reentry Strategic Partnerships, at tsmith@self-sufficiency.org.