Battling Recidivism with STEM Education

From the Prison Cell

To the S.T.E.M. Field

Re-Entry Specialist

Our Leadership


Education and Incarceration are threads weaving in and out of all of our lives.

The STEM-ucate Initiative for Reentry (SIR) will educate formerly incarcerated individuals, cultivate their STEM skills, and provide them with resources needed to succeed after incarceration in the 21st Century.

Lauren Wolf | Stemucate | Overnight Tech Group

Dr. Lauren Wolf

Dr. Wolf taught mathematics in the New York state prison system for years. She recalls this as the “most rewarding” teaching experience shes had. Dr. Wolf taught everything  from basic algebra to Differential Equations to Complex Analysis. Her favorite memories were those “ah ha” moments when the student realized that they understand and never before had the confidence to succeed.


Salih Israil

Salih Israil holds a B.A. in Language and Literature from Bard College and an M.P.S. in Pastoral Care and Counseling from New York Theological Seminary. After completing graduate school, Salih spent the next three years honing his analytic skills while taking undergraduate-level math and computer science courses. He is currently a Data Analyst for the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund. Before joining the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, Salih served as an editor for an independent publishing company, published four faith-based inspirational novels, worked as a freelance programmer, and developed the Skill-Streamed Infusion Framework Technique (SIFT) to design literature curriculum that unlocks the transformative power of literature by creating a dialog between a piece of literature and students’ life circumstances while building and cultivating vital leadership/social skills.

Donna Hylton of STEM-ucate Initiative

Donna Hylton


Donna Hylton has been deeply involved in movements for social justice around the world. She draws upon her experience imprisoned in a women’s correctional facility for 27 years, with some of that time spent in solitary confinement. Now free on parole, she emphasizes the importance of building communities through economic, racial, and gender justice.
Donna is a founding member of From Life to Life, a national initiative dedicated to the dismantling of the prison industrial complex. She is especially concerned with the general tendency to devote more resources and attention to dismantling a prison system that preys upon the weak and victimized, she urges communities to think seriously about school to prison pipelines and the pathways that allow women, over 80% which have been abused, that result in rising incarceration rates among women of color. Donna is a key member of the Correctional Association’s “Violence Against Women Committee on the Inside. ”She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Behavioral Sciences with a concentration in Social Psychology and a Master’s of Fine Arts degree in English Literature from Mercy College. Donna is also an advisory committee member for the New York Women’s Bar Association’s Parole Prep Project and a 2015 Just Leadership USA Fellow .

DR. Soho, Edme of STEM-ucate Initiative

Dr. Soho, Edme

STEM Educator
Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Hostos CC. He is Originally from Benin (West Africa) and did a part of his undergraduate work at Montclair State University in NJ, and graduate work at the Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ. Generally, Dr. Soho is interested in the application of mathematics to solve real world problems arising in the life, social, and physical sciences. His mathematical research uses systems of differential (and sometimes integral) equations to model the spread of epidemics, dynamical systems in immune-epidemiology, dynamics of infectious diseases, population dynamics. Specifically, He has studied the dynamics within or between pathogen-host, and explored how the variability in immune system response within an endemic environment affects an individual vulnerability.

Annibel Cortez | Stemucate | Overnight Tech Group

Anibal Cortes, MPH

Board Member

Anibal Cortes joined the Center for Court Innovation as a Resource Coordinator, Supervised Release Program at Bronx Community Solutions, a non-profit organization that promotes new thinking about how to reduce crime and incarceration while strengthening public trust in justice, in February 2016. Anibal also enjoys a working relationship with the Bard College Prison Initiative (BPI) as a Continuing Education Counselor where he assists returning BPI students connect with other alumni, re-acclimate to the city and network in the pursuit of employment and educational opportunities. An alumnus of BPI, Anibal received his BA in Anthropology in 2008.


Leyla Martinez

Board Member

Leyla Martinez is a first generation student at Columbia’s School of General Studies, studying Human Rights. She is also the President/Founder of the Beyond the Box Initiative at Columbia University (BTB), which is a student organization for current and prospective students who have been directly or indirectly impacted by mass incarceration. Prior to starting BTB Leyla was a Program Coordinator at the Center for Justice at Columbia University where she helped to organize events like the annual Beyond the Bars Conference, Unlocking Potential: Education is the Key and many others. 


Ms. Martinez is also a criminal justice reform advocate and a member of the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls (NCIFIWG). As a member of NCIFIWG, Leyla has traveled to several different states to speak to Law School students about the effects of incarceration on women, children and communities. She has also been invited to speak on panel discussions at The White House, Google, UCLA, Columbia University and more.


She is a Program for Academic Leadership and Service Scholar, Justice in Education Scholar, Gilman Scholar, Joey O’Loughlin Scholar, Mother’s Day Scholar, Women’s Forum Education Fund Fellow, Beyond the Bars Fellow, Earth Institute Center for Environmental Sustainability Fellow and Women’s Independence Scholar..
Olen Dias

Dr. Olen Dias

STEM educator

Aaron Jones of STEM-ucate Initiative

Aaron Jones

STEM Educator

Curtis Bell | Overnight Tech | Stemucate

Curtis Bell

Board Member

Mr. Curtis Bell is a Bard College graduate, a Justice-in-Education fellow of Columbia University, founder of a youth outreach program called the Success Initiative and Director of Re-entry & Social Affairs at Compassion House. Mr. Bell’s primary focus is to ensure that all Americans have full access to express and actualize democracy. As a result, he is committed to changing the social, economic, political reality of our nations forgotten citizens.

Ramah Sharaf | Stemucate | Overnight Tech Group

Ramah Sharaf



Jule Hall


Board Member

Jule was released July 2015 after serving 22 years in New York State Corrections. While incarcerated, he earned an undergraduate degree in German Studies and graduate level certification in Public Health. Two weeks after he was released, Jule found employment as a telemarketer and was employed not long afterward as a campaign coordinator at Picture Motion, where he worked on the social impact campaign for THE RETURN, a documentary on the re-entry challenges faced by returning citizens. Currently, Jule works as a program assistant in the unit for Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Justice at the Ford Foundation.

Jason Lewis of STEM-ucate Initiative

Jason Lewis

STEM Educator

S.T.E.M. For All

STEM-ucate Initiative

Mission & Vision

Recidivism research indicates that education and/or vocational training drastically reduces an individual’s chance of returning to prison. The STEM-ucate Initiative for Reentry (SIR) will educate formerly incarcerated individuals, develop their STEM skills, and provide them with resources needed to succeed after incarceration in the 21st Century.



SIR is unique in focusing specifically on STEM education and STEM-related fields, unlike most existing reentry programs. The US Department of Education recently wrote that college education and certificate programs drastically reduce recidivism, saving public dollars and improving employment outcomes.

Additionally, it is common knowledge that STEM education is becoming crucial in today’s labor market. For example, the largest job market in 2018 is forecasted to be in IT, which is a STEM-related field. SIR’s uniqueness promises to supplement existing reentry programming and to serve individuals society often forgets about by preparing them for employment in a modern economy.



SIR’s long-term strategy is to provide STEM-focused, short-term educational training and link employees to employers and the Labor Department in order to facilitate internship and job placement in STEM-related fields.


Problem Solvers

Many incarcerated individuals are undereducated and receive no higher education or useful vocational training while in prison. They often return to poor neighborhoods lacking 21st-century skills needed to be productive citizens. Incarcerating heads of households and failing to prepare them for release not only taxes families but also impacts communities like the South Bronx, already burdened by poverty and socioeconomic disadvantage. SIR seeks to improve individual lives by offering education, networking opportunities, and resources in STEM-related fields. In running the program out of Hostos, SIR also aims to alleviate some of incarceration’s negative effects on the South Bronx community.

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The Stem-ucate Initiative will provide intensive, focused educational training that will increase formerly incarcerated individuals’ labor-market appeal and build a network of employers in STEM-related fields with which to facilitate placing these individuals in internships and jobs with the potential for upward mobility.

If you'd like to join the team and get involved with educating our returning citizens, Please send us a message...we'd love to have you!

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