Rashawn Sullivan

Rashawn Sullivan

  • Major: Communications
  • Hometown: Syracuse

Rashawn Sullivan remembers the moment when he realized he needed to change his life. It was 2010, he was in prison and it was 3 o’clock in the morning. “I woke up and I was crying. I was tired of being in jail for so long. I asked myself, ‘Is this how my life is going to end? Is this how it’s supposed to be?’ I remember telling myself, ‘I’m not going to let the book that I’m writing about my life end like this.’ I started dreaming again and seeing myself back with my family.”

Today he’s a 37-year-old college freshman, majoring in Communications at OCC. “I like it here. I feel like a kid. This open environment allows me to socialize and see the world from a different view.”

Sullivan’s journey to OCC has been nothing short of remarkable. He grew up in a violent, drug-infested home. Neither of his parents were in his everyday life. He committed three criminal acts at ages 9, 10 and 11 and was sentenced to a juvenile detention center each time. Another crime committed in 1997 resulted in him spending 17 years behind bars. By the time he was released in 2015 he had spent well over half of his life incarcerated.

Sullivan’s career goal is to do motivational speaking. In the three years since he’s been a free man Sullivan has spoken with inmates monthly at Onondaga County’s Justice Center. He’s also worked as a member of the Trauma Response Team at the Southwest Community Center where OCC has an office staffed by Student Recruiter Flagan Prince. Wherever Sullivan speaks his message always has similar themes. “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. Whatever you experienced, it’s no excuse. You create your own reality. The consequences of my actions created my reality. I was the sole controller of my own destiny.”

His strong desire to take ownership of his actions led him to create the iapologize Foundation, a nonprofit organization which consists of a mentoring program for youth along with a reentry program for prisoners who are incarcerated and coming home. Sullivan also apologized to the victims of his past life and wrote a book titled “iapologize.” He’s become a walking, talking example of his ‘It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish’ message. “I feel like I’m back in life again. I feel like anything is possible.”

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