Changemakers: Foundation gives college scholarships to former inmates in need of ‘second chance’

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MOUNT VERNON, Wash. -- Have you ever wanted a do-over? A second chance to live your best life? Meet two local men who know what it feels like to be down and out - and are determined to lift people up, regardless of poor decisions they've made in the past.

Kyle Von Stroberg spent years of his life in and out of jail for drugs and petty crimes. The 38-year-old thought the door leading to a career would be shut forever, until 2013. He was walking out of jail - again - when a guard suggested something he never thought possible: go to college.

"Right then and there, we signed up for school," he said.

Skagit Valley College not only welcomed him with open arms, the college also offered financial aid.

"It gave me the option of trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life," Von Stroberg said.

He graduated with three degrees and 11 certificates and became a marine technician.

"Just seeing that they believed in me made me want to do something in return," he said.

Von Stroberg tapped into his new trade and built a boat -- aptly named the "Second Chance" -- then raffled it off to endow the first scholarship for people like him -- former inmates in need of a second chance.

Jason Cockburn, who got out of prison in 2016, was second in line to receive one.

"He didn`t know me from Adam. He had never met me before in his life," Cockburn recalled. "From the minute I walked onto campus and chose education as a life - I`ve never looked back."

Cockburn decided he also wanted to pay it forward, so the two men started the Second Chance Foundation, providing eight scholarships to date and creating a support group on campus to help others replace the title of "former inmate" with "college grad."

With help from the Skagit Valley College Foundation, the Second Chance Scholarship has grown to more than $105,000, bringing many more scholarships for years to come.

They've also expanded the support group to other colleges, including Edmonds Community College.

"It`s inspired more people to want to make a difference. And to think beyond themselves. And to want to give back in ways that we can help enable."

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