Harlem nonprofit helping female former inmates get college degrees

Turning your life around after spending time behind bars can be incredibly difficult to do without any help, with 60 percent of people released from prison nationwide ending up back behind bars. But the College and Community Fellowship, a Harlem-based nonprofit is working to help women who have spent time imprisoned break the cycle.

"We used to say people fall through the cracks, I say they literally walk into whirlpools that drag them down," said Vivian Nixon, Executive Director for the CCF.

The CCF has helped hundreds of women who have spent time in prison pursue college degrees, with a quarter of their participants pursuing a Master's Degree. Just 6 percent of CCF's graduates end up returning to prison.

"They help you with things ranging from how to fill out a college application to support with the financial needs like buying books," said Chermaine, who was jailed twice before becoming a CCF member. Now, she is a research assistant at Columbia University and on track to receive her Master's Degree.

Some critics do say the group is a waste of money, donating time and resources to those in need who have not been incarcerated, but the CCF's directors say that's not true.

"We're not trying to take anything away from anybody else," Nixon said. "What we're trying to do is offer opportunity to people who have been systemically, historically impacted."