Stanley Andrisse is a scientist. Syrita Steib is an activist. They are both breaking down barriers to help formerly incarcerated people pursue education and careers in science, technology, education, and mathematics. They have both founded organizations that provide people with convictions pathways to careers in STEM.
“I was seen as a criminal, less than an animal,” Andrisse recalls the moment he realized that he had been being prepared for prison his entire life. In 2008 in a Missouri courtroom, Stanley Andrisse was a promising college athlete and biology whose future would be altered forever by a 10-year sentence.
After serving his time, Andrisse reconnected with a cancer researcher he’d worked for during a fellowship in school. Through the encouragement and help of his mentor, Andrisse graduated with a Ph.D. in 2014. Now the endocrinologist runs a nonprofit, From Prison Cells to Ph.D., that offers people with convictions opportunities like educational counseling, paid short-term internships, and other resources.
Syrita Steib, founder and executive director of nonprofit Operation Restoration, faced a 10-year sentence and a hefty nearly $2 million in restitution after committing a felony. Nothing could have prepared her for the barriers she faced when she attempted to enroll in college after her sentence.
She was only admitted to Lousiana State University after submitting an application with the felony box unchecked. Steib went on to complete her bachelor’s and founded Operation Restoration in 2016. The nonprofit supports current and formerly incarcerated women and has a one-of-a-kind lab assistant program that offers a direct pathway to a four-year degree.
Many college applicants with convictions aren’t rejected. The truth is, many applications never try. Stanley and Syrita aim to change that narrative.