Director of Student Success & Re-Entry Services

Why Rachel does this work...

I was drawn to the work of THEI for its commitment to breaking cycles of harm and facilitating opportunities for autonomy and self-determination inside prisons. Before joining the THEI team, I had worked in re-entry and as a college and student success counselor to first generation college students, and my passion for this work has always related to helping people have the freedom to self-determine, the access to information to make informed choices, and the support needed to overcome whatever barriers and challenges our systems impose on people. My passion for access to opportunity in prison developed through a Southern context, with a lens of dismantling systemic racism, ending economic exploitation, and breaking generational cycles of harm.

Having been raised in a family impacted by incarceration, I learned at a young age that we are all so much more than the worst things we have ever done, and that all people are deserving of dignity and respect. THEI creates a container for self-exploration and achievement, and supports people in navigating systems that have been designed without their success, joy, freedom, or best interests in mind. People are not disposable, and prisons and punishment don’t make us safer, but community and resources do. I believe that we really have to wrestle with the question, “what do we do about harm?” because the answers are not simple, and we must be willing to really face the question itself if we want to end the oppression, violence, and suffering that our current system sustains.

Rachel Zolensky joined THEI in 2016 and is responsible for re-entry services for students who are transitioning back to the community after incarceration, in addition to providing administrative and operations support for the organization. In 2015 Rachel earned a Master’s degree in Social Entrepreneurship from USC Marshall School of Business, and in 2012 she earned her Bachelor’s of Arts in Sociology and American Studies & Ethnicity from the University of Southern California. Previously, Rachel worked for Project Return, where she assisted men and women returning from incarceration in overcoming barriers to employment. Rachel has also served as a college counselor for The Oasis Center, providing first-generation college students with support in their pursuits of higher education.