910 West State St. // West MLK St.
Ithaca NY 14850
Call (607)-272-7885
Walk-ins welcome 9am-3:00pm

College Initiative Upstate

"Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare today." Malcolm X 

Our mission... College Initiative Upstate (CIU) is a learning community of educators, students, and volunteers from Tompkins County who are working together to build pathways from criminal justice involvement to college and beyond.

CIU works with students who have had involvement with the criminal justice system including: incarceration, probation, parole, involvement with alternative to incarceration programs and arrest without conviction.


Benay Rubenstein the Director of CIU Upstate by:

phone 607-351-5028 or email collegeinitiativeupstate@gmail.com

Suzanne Burnham the Academic Counselor of CIU Upstate by:

phone 607-882-0355 or email collegeinitiativeupstate@gmail.com


Pre-Release Support:

  • Weekly CIU College prep sessions at Tompkins County Jail
  • One-on-one academic counseling by referral or request though OAR's mailbox at Tompkins County Jail

Post-Release Support:

  • One-on-one academic counseling and guidance
  • Navigating the college application process
  • Access to federal and NYS financial aid (FASFA) and scholarships
  • Assistance with getting student loans out of default
  • Semester-long bus passes
  • Book stipends
  • Tutoring for college placement exams and academic courses
  • On-going CIU community events and celebrations
  • Re-entry support in collaboration with our network of community partners
  • Chromebooks for students in need
  • Student Advisory Committee
  • Student led meeting to discuss the challenges and successes of academia (bi-weekly)


College Prep

is a ground-breaking collaboration between CIU, Ithaca City Court, TST BOCES, Tompkins County Probation and Tompkins Cortland Community College. This program prepares students for college placement exams, college enrollment and fosters life skills necessary for strong decision making. The reading/writing and math curriculum will be tailored to meet individual needs.

CIU's Fall Prep 2017 Graduation!

STUDENTS from left to right: Nicole Treacy, Math tutor Jody Anderson, Kristy Strickland, Edrick Acosta, Antony Higgins, Joe Bice, Patrick "Shawn" Dort, Joe Lewis Hallback, Amy Heffron

FALL 2017 Teaching Staff:Sarah Wolf TC3, Martille Norton T-S-T BOCES, Ryan Marchenese and Michelle Candela Jordan T-S-T BOCES

CIU Spring Prep 2018 session: March 5th - April 27th 


CIU Summer Prep 2018 session: July 16th - August 10th. Call today for more information and to reserve your seat! 607-882-0355

Anna Regula, TC3 professor (Reading with Peers) and BARD College

Michelle Candela-Jordan, Martille Norton, Kathryn Hamilton, Ryan Marchenese, and Valerie Reine: T-S-T BOCES

Pat Buechel, Director of TC Probation

Honorable Rick Wallace and John Rowley: Ithaca City Court Judge's

Deborah Dietrich, Director of OAR

Jaime Coleman, OAR parolee case manager and client services, Anita Peebles and Jessica Shepard, OAR client services.

STUDENTS from left to right: Michael Chapman, Michael James, Terrance Johnson, Brian Kessler, Gregory Jackson, Lisa Riley, Katie Pelto, Stephanie Foster, Frank Brittain, Jonathon Butler, Gina Majetka, Carrie Quigley and TC3 graduate and CIU's first student to be accepted to a 4 year school out of Tompkins County: Lucas Hahn. Missing from photo: Mercedes Alridge

C.I.U'S First Ever....Summer College Prep ATI Graduation 2017!

CIU Fall Prep

CIU's Fall Prep graduation 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Paying for College

These are free scholarships that can pay for part or all of your college journey. Click the links to learn more, or contact our office and we can work through this process together.


Help Support a Student's Dream

CIU Director Awarded the 2017 James J. Byrnes Awards for Excellence

Accepting the award.

Passionately Speaking

The Award!

Benay was nominated by Suzanne Burnham, College Initiative Upstate's Academic Counselor, and Jaime Coleman, O.A.R. Parolee Case Manager for the outstanding work she not only initiated, but has continued to spearhead in the Tompkins County area, enabling individuals (whose lives have been impacted by the criminal justice system) to participate in civic participation, leadership, and long term success through the elimination of individual and structural barriers to higher education.

Benay Rubenstein accepted the Tompkins Trust Co.; Legacy Foundation's prestigious award; presented to community members who've helped to enrich the quality of life in Tompkins County by their volunteer efforts. The James J. Byrnes Award for Excellence was established as a $100,000 endowment by the Tompkins Trust Co. in 1985, an endowment that has grown to over $3 million with the help of the Legacy Foundation, good investments, and bequeaths over the years. Benay was in good company among the seven other community member's who were recognized for their service this year 2017


Contact us for additional information regarding the program.



Thank you to CIU partners including Tompkins-Cortland Community College (TC3), Empire State College (Ithaca Office), Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County (CCE) Reentry Services for Inmates of the Tompkins County Jail, Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga BOCES, Tompkins County Jail, Tompkins County Department of Probation and Community Justice, New York State Division of Parole and many of the community agencies and organizations listed in OAR's list of community resources.

Partner With Us

Collaboration is vital to the vitality and sustainability of CIU. If your organization is interested in a mutually beneficial relationship, please let us know.