Mass Incarceration

Two undergraduate students earn prestigious fellowships to address school-to-prison pipeline > News > USC Dornsife

The undergrads, each of whom serve in USC Dornsife’s Brokers of Change civil rights advocacy clinic, are the primary at USC to obtain Soros Justice Fellowships from the Open Society Foundations.

Thanks to their Soros Justice Fellowships, two USC Dornsife undergraduates will explore the incarceration and criminalization of young people of color in our public school system. (Composite: Letty Avila. Image Source: iStock.)

Because of their Soros Justice Fellowships, two USC Dornsife undergraduates will discover the incarceration and criminalization of younger folks of coloration in our public college system. (Composite: Letty Avila. Picture Supply: iStock.)


  • Two USC Dornsife undergraduates had been chosen from 1000’s of world candidates to obtain two of 18 Soros Justice Fellowships.
  • They’re the youngest Soros Justice Fellows within the 2022 cohort.
  • The scholars obtained $57,000 every to additional their mission to focus on the school-to-prison pipeline.
  • Each serve in USC Dornsife’s Brokers of Change (AOC) initiative — the nation’s first undergraduate civil rights advocacy clinic.
  • Alumna Maytha Alhassan earned a Soros Equality Fellowship to design a storytelling mannequin for TV reveals and movies geared in the direction of social change.

Two college students on the USC Dornsife Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, have develop into the college’s first undergraduates to be awarded Soros Justice Fellowships.

Senior Katherine Owojori plans to attend regulation college and work to reform the jail system. (Photograph: Courtesy of Katherine Owojori.)

Irene Franco Rubio and Katherine Owojori had been chosen from 1000’s of world candidates to obtain two of the 18 Soros Justice Fellowships awarded in 2022. They’re the youngest within the cohort.

Granted yearly by the Open Society Foundations, the fellowships fund initiatives that advance reform, spur debate and result in change on points going through the US legal justice system.

Owojori and Franco Rubio each serve in USC Dornsife’s Agents of Change (AOC) initiative — the nation’s first undergraduate civil rights advocacy clinic — and credit score this system with serving to to offer their Soros Justice Fellowship purposes a profitable edge. AOC was additionally the place Rubio and Owojori met and determined to crew as much as apply for the fellowships.

Every obtained $57,000 to additional their joint mission exploring and highlighting through the media the school-to-prison pipeline and its function within the incarceration and criminalization of younger folks of coloration in low-income communities in Los Angeles.

“The concept is to discover how zero-tolerance insurance policies adopted by public faculties, in tandem with police and the justice system, serve to oppress and deter younger folks from with the ability to pursue increased schooling by criminalizing and incarcerating them as an alternative of investing in them and offering the assist they should thrive,” mentioned Franco Rubio.

Owojori and Franco Rubio plan to focus on the problems concerned by interviewing these immediately impacted, together with group activists, organizers and specialists. The interviews will probably be aired on the #SchoolsNotPrisons podcast, a digital motion to cease overspending on prisons and finish mass incarceration, as an alternative specializing in schooling, well being, youth and group.

Brokers of Change college students broaden activism efforts

Owojori, a senior majoring in political science, grew up in South L.A. and dreamed of attending USC.

An activist, educational, and group organizer, Owojori is a member of Black Lives Matter: Los Angeles, and a scholar director with USC Dornsife’s Jail Training Venture. She was additionally an organizing fellow with WokeVote, the Coverage & Price range co-chair on the Affiliation of Unbiased California Faculties and Universities, and a Warren Bennis Scholar at USC. After graduating from USC Dornsife, Owojori plans to attend regulation college and work to reform carceral techniques nationwide.

Senior Irene Franco Rubio plans to pursue a PhD after graduating. (Photograph: Courtesy Irene Franco Rubio.)

Franco Rubio, a senior majoring in sociology with a minor in race, ethnicity and politics, is a social justice activist, author and group organizer from Phoenix. She has labored as an area grassroots organizer for the Arizona Coalition for Change and arranged nationally for Michelle Obama’s nonprofit When We All Vote, and she or he is a Public Voices fellow of the Op-Ed Venture on the Yale Program on Local weather Change Communication, a Humanity in Motion fellow and a John Robert Lewis scholar.

After commencement, Franco Rubio plans to pursue a PhD in sociology whereas persevering with her profession as a contract author and grassroots group organizer.

Brokers of Change expertise offers college students a profitable edge

Award-winning civil rights lawyer Olu Orange, the founder and director of Brokers of Change, is delighted to see the laborious work of his AOC college students coming to fruition by the Soros Justice Fellowships.

“As a result of AOC addresses three completely different areas — authorities coverage, group activism and authorized advocacy — we’re seeing college students have an exceptional benefit on the subject of subsequent steps, corresponding to making use of to regulation college,” mentioned Orange, who additionally runs the USC Trial Advocacy (Mock Trial) program primarily based at USC Dornsife. This profitable edge, he says, additionally utilized to the Soros Justice Fellowships.

“The director of the choice committee advised Katherine and Irene that what set each of them aside so far as their purposes, their profiles and proposed initiatives had been involved is the truth that by AOC, they had been already doing the work moderately than — as was the case for a lot of candidates — wanting to do it.”

Owojori credit AOC with informing her future objectives.

“My internships allowed me to develop into extra educated about group organizing and being a great advocate,” she mentioned. “However AOC additionally made me extra intimately conversant in the problems that I needed to impression on a degree that I simply wouldn’t have been in a position to get within the classroom.”

For instance, her AOC internship with the American Civil Liberties Union included engaged on its Jails Venture, enabling her to talk with people who find themselves incarcerated and listen to first-hand concerning the points they face.

“I couldn’t have discovered that by studying a information article or by studying about it within the classroom,” Owojori mentioned.

USC Dornsife alumna named a Soros Equality Fellow

Along with Soros Justice Fellows Franco Rubio and Owojori, the Open Society Foundations acknowledged one other achieved USC Dornsife scholar.

Alumna Maytha Alhassan, a journalist and historian, will design a storytelling mannequin for TV reveals and movies. (Photograph: Shayan Asgharnia.)

Maytha Alhassan, who earned an MA and a PhD in American studies and ethnicity from USC Dornsife in 2013 and 2017, respectively, has been awarded a Soros Equality Fellowship. The award seeks to assist people develop into long-term revolutionary leaders impacting racial justice.

Alhassan will use the fellowship’s $130,000 in funding to design a storytelling mannequin for tv reveals and movies geared in the direction of transformative change.

A journalist, historian and social justice artist, Alhassen has appeared as a co-host on Al Jazeera English and The Younger Turks and has written for information retailers together with CNN, Boston Assessment HuffPost and The Baffler. She has additionally written for the Los Angeles Assessment of Books and has co-edited a ebook on the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, Demanding Dignity: Younger Voices from the Entrance Strains of the Arab Revolutions (White Cloud Press, 2012).

At the moment, Alhassen produces and writes for the award-winning Hulu sequence Ramy and serves as an government producer for the upcoming docuseries American Muslims: A Historical past Revealed. She is a Harvard Faith and Public Life Fellow in Media and Leisure.

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