Making Alternative Transformations at Columbia College

Columbia College is committed to its mission of serving all students, irrespective of their background. The resources students need to be successful in college depends upon several factors such as socioeconomic status, ethnicity, access to food, shelter, etc. Columbia College offers several special programs dedicated to and targeted at students with identified needs. These special programs provide resources such as money for books, enhanced counseling, priority registration, and uses several strategies to engage students with the campus and academics. Making Alternative Transformations (MAT) is one such special program. This program is targeted at formerly incarcerated students. Research shows that formerly incarcerated students face several barriers to social integration such as restricted access to housing, jobs, social connections, etc. A combination of such factors often contributes to a higher recidivism rate that not only impacts the person, but also costs the society. Alternately, when the formerly incarcerated persons have access to college education, their chance of social rehabilitation increases significantly, helping both the individual and the society.

The MAT Program supports students in making the transition to college in a supportive learning cohort. Alicia Kolstad, Columbia College counselor, Sociology instructor, and director of the program, knows that formerly incarcerated or justice involved students need help accessing computers, applying for college and registering for classes. Even the cost of books for some of the cohort’s courses are loaned out to make it affordable. It isn’t just justice involved students that can enter this cohort, but other students in need of additional support. The program consists of a Guidance class that helps new students adjust to college life, and a computer skills course. There are computers available on loan from the Columbia College library, and hotspots which are portable data hubs for which the college pays monthly, in order to loan to students in need of WIFI or with low bandwidth. Any student that needs additional support can enter the program each semester. One such student is Kristina. Here is her story.

My name is Kristina and I came back to college thanks to the MAT Program. I was in the GEO Re-          entry group (a felony court ordered felony probation program) when Alicia Kolstad and the original MAT crew came to tell us that community college is for everyone. I was at a turning point in my life where I knew I had to start doing things differently if I wanted to stay out of prison and be a part of my kids’ lives. So, I signed up. I learned how to be a successful student through Alicia’s Guidance 18 class. She helped me to set goals for my future and an educational plan to go with it. I have stayed the course and continued to be successful in all areas of my life since then. I will be graduating from Columbia College in spring 2021 and transferring to a university in fall of 2021. I have received so much support through the college and I have never been judged for my past decisions. I am eternally grateful for the MAT Program and honored to be able to work in the MAT program until graduation.

The program is seeking new students for spring. There will be help with applying to Columbia College and becoming familiar with the MAT program on November 19, at the Columbia College campus. All safety protocols will be in place. Individuals formerly incarcerated, justice involved, or simply seeking additional support and specialized attention as you get your bearings, are invited to RSVP by contacting Alicia Kolstad, Director of Making Alternative Transformations, at (209) 588-5333 or Please help spread the word!