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More than 60 formerly incarcerated and system-impacted individuals joined this year’s cohort of the California Justice Leaders-AmeriCorps (CJL) program, an innovative reentry and workforce development initiative run by Impact Justice, a national innovation and research center advancing boundary-breaking ideas for criminal justice reform.

The heartfelt ceremony took place last Friday in Los Angeles and featured powerful remarks from community leaders, local elected officials, and representatives from Impact Justice.

“I’m only here standing today in our fourth and largest cohort from across California because we learned from your predecessors and from our partners,” said Aishatu Yusuf, Vice President of Innovation Programs at Impact Justice. “Over the last three years, it has been our members and our beneficiaries who have taught us when to push, when to pull back, and taught us how to grow this program.”

CJL was launched in February 2020 by Impact Justice and since then has helped scores of justice-impacted individuals succeed in their reentry journeys throughout the state of California by helping them navigate questions related to housing, employment, and education.

Now in its fourth year, CJL is expanding throughout the state of California following a $2.1 million grant from AmeriCorps last year, enabling the program to nearly double the number of people enrolled in the years ahead.

In her remarks, CJL alum Rabia Qutab said the program was not only a vehicle for professional development but also a second chance to explore who she wanted to be.

“My biggest advice to all of the members is to use this leadership training as a tool to learn your strengths and embrace them,” Qutab said. “Utilize the connections and network in these spaces, and create these opportunities that we all deserve!”

The event also featured remarks from California Assemblymembers Tina McKinnor, Mike Gipson and Wendy Carrillo.

“We believe in a values-driven California that is reflective of people, that no matter what circumstances we come from, we are able to move an agenda forward that puts people first,” said Wendy Carrillo, who represents the 52nd Assembly District and has played a key role in supporting Impact Justice’s programs.

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