Rising Scholars Club

Much more than a club; it’s a community, a home.
Mercedes, I.C.C rep. A.S. Vice President, club member.
Mercedes, I.C.C rep. A.S. Vice President, club member.
Andrew Vojta

College life can be extremely difficult to navigate for any of us, but especially more challenging if you come from a background that some may frown upon. Whether this judgement is real or imagined, the self-consciousness rings true for many college students. That’s where Rising Scholars come in.

Rising Scholars is a club at the Butte College main campus. Once known as Ascending Scholars, the club’s mission is to provide guidance, information, and support to those who have “come out” as having experienced incarceration. The club welcomes, with open arms, a loose connection to “experienced incarceration” by including family members and friends of anyone who is currently or formerly incarcerated in the criminal penal system. Created in 2019, the club invites allies to the criminal reform/ justice system to join. Those interested can join online or at the Student Life Center on the main campus. Meetings are held the first and third Tuesday from 12-1 pm in LRC 137 (Learning Resource Center building on the main campus).

The Rising Scholars program also offers a range of resources like advocacy for students, referrals to campus resources, student-centered workshops, access to computers and printing, and partnerships with four-year universities and other community colleges. A cool place to hang out and relax, offering free snacks and coffee, is also available. Rising Scholars is a place to connect and feel supported by a community.

“Not knowing how to navigate the school system, its scary, for me it’s been priceless, a Godsend really it gave me a home, with amazing like-minded people in an amazing atmosphere,” said one club member. For some, that’s what can really make a difference between taking advantage of the college experience or just going through the motions of going to class than going to work and/ or home.

For Mercedes, a club member and Inter-club Council (ICC) representative, “Rising Scholars makes the college experience more enjoyable and impactful, with backgrounds like mine.” The club opened doors for Mercedes who says she never thought college would or could have been possible for her.  She’s been in the club for three semesters now.  Mercedes is now more involved in the community and has embraced additional opportunities such as being in the I.C.C. rep for Rising Scholars Club. She also serves as the vice president for the  A.S. Student Government.

The club coordinates with Chico State and Chico State’s project Rebound, as well as a similar program at UC Davis called the Underground for those with backgrounds in the criminal justice system.

Rising Scholars also offers NA meetings every Thursday at 1 pm. They host career building workshops to help students gain skills or knowledge leading to gainful employment.  Our program is in partnership with a nonprofit group called the Axis Project that comes to the main campus at Butte College to help with record expungement. The one-year process takes a while, but they do boast of having success with the program.

The people in the club talk about loving the community and being grateful for the things that is brought by the club. Many members describe the hope offered by the club’s community as live changing.  These students then want to give back to the Rising Scholar community and the college at large. Members even feel inspired to give back to the cities of Chico and Oroville,  where many of the members in this club reside.

That message is clearly of giving back. “It’s a hand up, not a handout,” said another member, “any way we can give back we can.” Feeding the homeless, picking up trash on the freeway, little things like that add up to big things.”

That’s the sense you get when you are around these people– full of hope.

Stories of overcoming and still thriving is one I think we can all get behind and support. They get a second chance at life and give back to their local communities– what a beautiful thing.

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