About

Our mission is to empower San Quentin inmates through literacy. Proficiency in reading and writing enriches the lives of inmates as well as their families. It also gives them a greater chance of success on their journey toward rehabilitation.


Free To Succeed has worked successfully with San Quentin students for over 20 years. We operate Monday through Friday evenings, from 6:00 PM until 8:00 PM. Our students are hardworking, dedicated and appreciative. We inspire them. They inspire us.

Free To Succeed volunteers are everyday people – professionals, business people, a painter, a real estate agent, a programmer, a carpenter, a designer, a sales assistant, college students, an operations analyst, an accountant, an event coordinator, an administrative assistant, and yes, teachers.

We’re an all-volunteer, nonprofit working to change lives.

A Success Story – Eli

Eli
Eli

In our 20 years working with students at San Quentin, Free To Succeed has smiled over thousands of success stories. We’re in the middle of a heart-warming success story today. Eli came to us eight months ago. Like the rest of our students, Eli mustered the courage to walk through the doors of a literacy class and say, “Hello, I need help.” Asking for help is no easy task for guys like Eli; guys who’ve never asked anyone for help before.

Eli was ready. Testing him we found he could only read a handful of words – the, yes, no, stop, America and turn. First, we worked with Eli until he could recite the alphabet. Then, we had Eli put together word-sound combinations. A smile-filled breakthrough came when Eli read his first short sentence. At 37, Eli had cracked the code; he could finally do it. He could read.

From that point on there was no stopping Eli. Longer words, then short books, longer books and finally another milestone: Eli read a book for pleasure, a concept he had never dreamed possible.

Today Eli is a reader. That’s right – a reader. He’s no longer intimidated to fill out a job application. He’s getting out in 137 days and says he really wants to get hold of some job applications. That way he’ll be able to better provide for his five-year old, Ricky. And as Eli proudly says, “I’m looking forward to helping Ricky with his homework. We’ll probably start with the alphabet.”