SoCal: Former gang member who served 15 years in prison and graduated from Pitzer College in Claremont in a second chance at life

CLAREMONT, Calif. (KABC) — It was an exciting and emotional day on Saturday for Pitzer College as it hosted the commencement ceremony for the class of 2022 in Claremont.

One of the graduates was a former gang member who served 15 years in prison. Now he shares his inspirational reform story.

It’s a dream come true for Kenneth Butler, who’s gone from gang member to convicted felon to Fullbright Fellow and now college grad.

“My greatest accomplishment is definitely my degree, Fulbright has to be top of the line for sure, but graduating from college is my greatest accomplishment,” Butler said.

Butler is a founding member of the groundbreaking Inside-Out route to Pitzer College’s BA program.

During his 15-year sentence, Butler began taking college courses. When he was paroled last summer, he became a full-time student on the Claremont campus and changed his life forever.

“If I hadn’t signed up for this program, I don’t know where my life would have gone,” he said.

Now Butler is traveling to Uganda for 10 months to study the country’s prison system and its low recidivism rate.

“Coming from a low-income community and having served 15 years in prison brings that experience to a whole new place of study for me,” Butler said. “I can relate to those incarcerated and I understand that, so I think it’s going to be an easy connection.”

Butler, who was raised by his grandmother, who lost her to COVID-19 just three months after she was released from prison, says his academic achievements are a tribute to her belief in his reform.

“I just wanted to make her happy,” he said. “I’ve caused a lot of pain over the years, and I just want to put a smile on her face, give her something to be proud of.”

After returning from Africa, Butler gets his master’s degree and eventually wants to teach others and show them that education is the way to a better future.

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https://abc7.com/claremont-kenneth-butler-former-gang-member-graduates-college/11851291/ SoCal: Former gang member who served 15 years in prison and graduated from Pitzer College in Claremont in a second chance at life

Chrissy Callahan

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