Ivelisse Gilestra graduated from Rutgers University as a New Jersey Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons (NJ-STEP) member with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work and Sociology and received outstanding academic achievement awards. She actively participates as a panelist in discussions related to mass incarceration, felony disenfranchisement, and the historical systemic structures that enforce exclusionary policies affecting access for those directly impacted. She advocates at the federal level on issues of accessibility to higher education while emphasizing the collateral consequences of sanctioned barriers affecting people with criminal convictions and those currently incarcerated.
Ivelisse participated in a dialogue with the former United States Secretary of Education, John B. King at the Second Chance Pell Convening. In 2017 Ivelisse received the Citizens Against Recidivism Advocacy Award and was recognized by the New York City Council for her community engagement. She believes in shifting the narrative which normalizes the negative effects of the prison industrial complex in Black and Latino communities to one envisioning effective and humane ways of defining justice. Ivelisse currently works for College and Community Fellowship in New York as a Community Organizer.