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Student Creates Group for Formerly Incarcerated Students

Daily Trojan

By Erica Hur

After he was released from prison in January 2014, Aris Mangasarian found it difficult to find the resources to apply to a four-year university from community college.

In response to his struggles years later, the junior founded The Underground Trojans at USC, a group meant to help formerly incarcerated individuals who are low-level offenders transition from the judicial system to higher education.

“Essentially what we’re doing is reducing prison recidivism and increasing the likelihood of a more productive, healthier lifestyle for returning citizens,” said Mangasarian, who is majoring in psychology. “We’re using higher education as a bridge between incarceration and successful reentry into the community.”

The organization is connecting students at different community colleges with the hope of helping them transfer to four-year institutions like USC.

In community college, Mangasarian explained how his academic counselor was unable to answer his career-oriented questions because of his record of multiple low-risk criminal offenses.

“They are not used to students asking those types of questions because we’re extremely non-traditional,” Mangasarian said. “Forget the color of your skin, your gender, your social economic status … none of those things matter. [Formerly incarcerated students] are just branded in a completely different way.”

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