San Quentin’s garden chapel on April 6 to celebrate graduation from the TRUST family of programs. It was the program’s first graduation in three years due to interruptions caused by COVID.
TRUST stands for Teaching Responsibility Utilizing Sociological Training. The celebrated program is in its 19th year at San Quentin, making it one of the prison’s oldest self-help groups.
TRUST and its affiliate programs, Project LA/BA and Spanish Anger Management, provide tools, skills, and experiences that promote personal transformation. It also helps develop community, both inside and outside of prison.
This year’s graduation ceremony featured alumnus Tim Warren, who currently serves as district manager for Urban Alchemy. He offered participants inspirational words as well as a guarantee.
“To everyone in TRUST, I guarantee you that when you leave prison — and you will if you believe in TRUST — you will have a job with me at Urban Alchemy.”
He and another alumnus, Valeray Richardson of Urban Alchemy, said the company is acting as an ambassador for formerly incarcerated people — Urban Alchemy conducts urban renewal projects nationwide and specializes in employing the formerly incarcerated.
The celebration honored 40 graduates from TRUST, 38 from Project LA/BA, and 38 from Spanish Anger Management.
“TRUST is supposed to be a nine month program — but it took two years to finish,” said Vice Chair and emcee Louis Light. “Through these adverse situations, we should cherish the fact we could not have continued without the resiliency and dedication of our volunteers — Diana, Fran, Suzanne, Lainey, Quilley, Will, Steve and Kevin.”
Light and the other program leaders honored the volunteers and supporters with certificates of appreciation.
Volunteers and graduates talked about the impact of the program.
“To see the youngsters who came into TRUST as a shy and quiet individual but eventually participated and became part of a community was so gratifying,” said Dr. Diana Kronstadt.
“Hearing heartfelt stories of transformation and watching people open up for the first time is amazing,” said volunteer Frannie Engstrom.
Volunteer Suzanne Siciliano added that she always appreciates when the “men share with honesty and vulnerability.”
Graduate Jon Goldberg expressed his gratitude. “I was recruited … by a few other programs to help facilitate, but I believe TRUST does more for the residents than any other program.”
An East Bay transitional-housing nonprofit, BOSS, donated $2,100 to provide lunch for the graduates.
A highlight of the event was a documentary produced by first-year TRUST volunteer Wilson Tidman, a filmmaker and storyteller for Apple. The film is available on TRUST’s website.
“The film was incredible, and so was being part of the ceremony. For me, I never thought I would graduate from anything in prison,” said TRUST facilitator Shawn Rankin.
Project LA/BA and Spanish Anger Management Reflect on Graduation
Another speaker at the event was Project LA/BA volunteer Steve Montez, who spoke on behalf of program director Helanie Melnitzner. Montez thanked the graduates for their hard work and for enduring the modified programs during COVID, which stretched the program over two years.
Project LA/BA, which started in 2016, prepares men for parole by teaching them how to navigate the maze of re-entry services.
Montez, Kevin Rowell, Project LA/BA’s Chair Marquez Sherouse and Marcus Henderson reminisced about the program.
Sharousse praised the graduates before he handed out the certificates. “We finally made it,” he said. “Being able to present these men with their certificates to recognize their dedication and perseverance is a proud moment.”
Project LA/BA graduate Manuel Hernandez spoke of the program’s importance. “Everyone should take the class as they prepare to go home because they give good information about preparedness for the outside through their great speakers.”
Spanish Anger Management graduate Miguel De La Cruz said the program “taught me to have compassion and become a caring and loving person.”
Community Resource Manager Lt. Gardea, Public Information Officer Lt. Berry, and Earned-Living Lt. Haub attended the graduation along with other guests.
TRUST Education Chair Lou Bernabei summed up the scope of the program’s impact. “We really hope that during our 20th anniversary class next semester, Governor Newsom can visit and see why he was correct in laying his stake in rehabilitative programs.”
—Bostyon Johnson and Carlos Drouaillet contributed to this story