LTCC, El Centro High Partnership Celebrates First Justice-Involved College Graduate

May 22, 2023

Sacramento County Chief Probation Officer Marlon Yarber speaks to the RSP graduate at his ceremonyA new partnership between Lake Tahoe Community College's Rising Scholars Program (RSP) for justice-involved students and the youth detention facility El Centro High School in Sacramento has resulted in its first community college graduate.  

The student, who wishes to remain anonymous, is the first to earn his Associate of Arts degree in Social Sciences from LTCC while housed at El Centro, earning a 3.14 GPA in the process. He is already registered for additional college courses to help him complete his transfer degree requirement, putting a bachelor’s degree within his reach in the next few years. 

"Thanks to the power of our partnership and the positive leadership being provided by El Centro High and the Sacramento County Probation Department, I knew we could build something special together,” said LTCC’s RSP Director, Shane Reynolds. “Now that we know how to create the right pathway for earning Associate of Art degrees at El Centro, we’re taking the next step and building online delivery methods specifically for juvenile students, to better serve them so more of them have an opportunity to earn college credits while in high school.” 

LTCC’s RSP is a specialized program originally designed to serve students in adult prisons in Northern California. It has since transformed to better serve Tahoe’s South Shore community and incarcerated students around the state in both adult and youth facilities.  

At some of the locations LTCC’s RSP serves, students have been awarded dual enrollment credits, allowing them to finish their high school requirements more efficiently. The college's RSP has offered access to education for the justice involved for eight years, and it has helped many students overcome the barriers to education and degree earning.   

LTCC's and El Centro’s first juvenile graduate had a difficult start in life, but he was determined to turn his situation around. He entered LTCC’s program and quickly became a leader at El Centro among his fellow detainees, who he encouraged to join him on an educational path toward reform. He has now received transition support from El Centro High and CSU Sacramento, which he’ll take classes with to complete the last two years of his bachelor’s degree program starting this fall.  

The student entered into a degree pathway through LTCC with a strong drive to succeed and a commitment to his education. He quickly became an active participant, working closely with LTCC’s RSP and El Centro staff to develop a plan for success 

"The Rising Scholars Program has been life-changing for me," said the student-graduate. "I'm grateful for the support and encouragement I received. [LTCC and El Centro] helped me achieve my goals and showed me that anything is possible if you work hard and stay committed." 

Graduation ceremonies are normally emotional experiences for college graduates and their families, and perhaps are even more so for incarcerated students who complete their college work under difficult circumstances and in challenging environments. For some families, a graduation ceremony may be the first time they have a chance to celebrate an important and positive success with their loved one. 

“My graduation felt unreal,” said LTCC’s El Centro graduate. “I had the support of what felt like 100 LTCC staff members and nearly the entire Sacramento County Education office. My family was present, including my nieces. Nearly four years before, I was in a holding cell thinking my life would amount to nothing, and here I was one step toward becoming the man I want to be for my family.” 

LTCC President Jeff DeFranco shakes the new graduate's handLTCC Superintendent/President Jeff DeFranco congratulated the student on their achievement and praised the faculty and staff present for their support. 

"We are incredibly proud of our first juvenile graduate from the Rising Scholars Program," said DeFranco. "Their success is a testament to the power of education and the dedication of our faculty and staff. We are grateful for the opportunity to help students like this achieve academic success and build confidence. The students do the work: we provide the access.”  

LTCC’s RSP provides students with individualized academic support, counseling for the currently detained, and transition support for students who are leaving the system. These students work closely with LTCC faculty and RSP staff, and with probation and educational support at various locations to develop students’ overall academic and personal goals. This broad support is available to these students throughout their educational journeys while incarcerated and post-release. 

“LTCC’s entire campus is moving together toward a common goal of serving this particular student population,” said Reynolds. “As we continue to evolve, I envision a space where we can facilitate a sense of trust and accomplishment with our students. We'll better serve them by offering face-to-face classes at our local juvenile treatment center, and by creating an environment for post-release students to complete their academic goals. My vision is to collaborate with juvenile justice locations fostering access to education online and face-to-face.” 

For more information about LTCC’s RSP, contact Director Shane Reynolds at or call (530) 541-4660 x194. Additional information about the program can also be found on the RSP webpage.