MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS, Manhattan (PIX11) — Many women who were formerly incarcerated and are now leaders in their communities are celebrating thanks to a non-profit called College & Community Fellowship, and they’ve all received their college degrees or are nearing graduation.

They have overcome some of the biggest challenges in life, having spent time behind bars. Now many of these women are giving back to their communities. In June, PIX11 News first met Hope Sanders from the Bronx. Sanders was busy putting on her cap and gown for the first time, a magical moment because it was a dream come true. At 16 years old, she was incarcerated. 

Sanders has come a long way. She got her bachelor’s degree with honors in social work and is now at Columbia University pursuing her master’s degree in social work. Sanders said it’s all thanks to the CCF. It’s a group that helps her and thousands like her—overcome the challenges of being formerly incarcerated to earning their college degrees and turning their lives around.

Helen “Skip” Skipper from the Bronx also went through the program. Since being released, she has spent years helping other women rebuild their lives.

Maria Santangelo is the acting deputy executive director of the program. She said that for over twenty years, her program had helped women with going to college, job placement, leadership development and even starting a new push to get people to vote for policy changes that affect their neighborhoods. 

Michele Gantt from the Bronx went through the program and is now going to john jay college for her bachelor’s degree in human.


For more information on the CCF, go to