From Leyla Martinez

On December 3rd, Beyond the Box is joining the national day of generosity, #GivingTuesday. It’s a day when you have the ability to make a positive impact. With your help, we will be able to make a difference.

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I have first-hand experience of how transformational an education can be. Without an education, I was unable to secure a livable wage job. As a result, when my child’s father was arrested, I was unable to maintain our apartment and we were forced to rely on the kindness of family members to avoid sleeping on the streets.  

Soon thereafter, I found myself in an impossible situation. In my attempt to provide for my young son, I was also incarcerated and separated from him for two years.

But that’s not where my story ends—it's actually where a new part of my story begins.

While incarcerated, I made the decision to return to school, in order to set a good example for my son and to provide him with a better life.


I first enrolled at Hunter College. And then, because of the help and support of friends, I dared to dream bigger...I applied to Columbia University and not only was I accepted, but I received a full scholarship and recently graduated.

Now I am paying it forward, helping those who like me are trying to change their lives through education.


I founded Beyond the Box Initiative to help other formerly incarcerated people who want to pursue higher education because I know there are many other people who—like me—have big dreams but lack the resources needed to achieve them.


Our goal is simple: to provide a support system for prospective and current students who have been impacted by the criminal justice system and to help them find a path to success.


Research shows that when people who were incarcerated have real educational opportunities, we are less likely to return to prison. We become productive members of society. We dare to have dreams.


I’m asking for your investment in the dreams of women and men who are ready for a chance that higher education uniquely brings but don’t have the support they need. We know how to help them pursue the successful future they can attain and we—as a community—need them to have. We know because we were once in their shoes and found our way out.


Here are a few simple ideas for how you can help:

Make a gift in honor of #GivingTuesday by clicking here.

Become a recurring donor and help sustain our work by clicking here.

Volunteer with us by clicking here.

Help us get the word out by taking a picture or making a video demonstrating why our organization matters to you and sharing it on social media using the hashtag’s #BeyondTheBox & #GivingTuesday and tag us.  

Share this email with friends who might be interested in supporting our work.


If you know me, you know how difficult this is for me. I don’t like asking for money, but I know that the people who have been impacted by mass incarceration can and will live better lives if they are able to obtain an education. Therefore, I am attempting to grow as a nonprofit leader through this ask of you because your support will help create real educational opportunities for formerly incarcerated people through advocacy, direct support, and innovative programs.

If you have gotten this far, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share my story and our vision at Beyond the Box.


In hope and peace,

Leyla Martinez

Founder and Executive Director | Beyond the Box Initiative

I hope you'll consider making a contribution today

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