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From Prison To College: How A Formerly Incarcerated Student Overcame The Odds To Graduate

Like many people coming out of prison, Perry Cline never thought he’d get a college degree.

Cline, a 51-year-old black man and Chicago native, just graduated from college. He has a bachelor’s degree in social work. He also co-founded a non-profit to help those battling addiction, and he recently landed a job as a case manager at a substance abuse treatment facility in Champaign, Illinois.

The turning point for Cline originated in his decision to enroll in community college. Community colleges, unlike most four-year universities in the state, do not ask about criminal records, and they offer classes to people at all skill levels. The relationships and the mentorship Cline received during that period of his life ultimately led to his academic and career achievements.

But reaching those milestones was not easy. Cline has a felony record. And the path to prison was set for him early in his life.