Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons


Christopher J. Agans, Acting Director & Director of Transitions

Chris is currently Acting Director for all NJ-STEP operations and NJ-STEP’s Director of Transitions, leading the supports for NJ-STEP students once they transition home into community. He is a graduate of both Rutgers College and Rutgers Graduate School of Education where he earned a Masters Degree in Educational Administration. Prior to developing the transitional supports for formerly incarcerated students at Rutgers University (now known and the Rutgers Mountainview Communities),  Chris was the Director of the federally funded TRIO Student Support Services program for Rutgers New Brunswick. There he managed all aspects of academic and personal support services for low-income, first-generation college students. He has served at Rutgers since 1999 in a wide variety of other roles as well, including: IT professional; residence counselor; and a course instructor for various programs and departments.


Regina Diamond-Rodriguez, Mountainview Community Counselor – Rutgers Newark 

Regina provides direct support to NJ-STEP students enrolled at Rutgers – Newark through the Mountainview Program. Regina is a Licensed Social Worker and graduate of Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service (MSW). Regina earned her BA in Social Work at Rutgers where she earned a number of awards and scholarships for her leadership in the LGBTQ Community as well as her service and involvement with the Mountainview Program. This includes her role as co-founder of the Mountainview Project Student Organization (MVP-SO).  Regina joins NJ-STEP after spending several years as a care manager for children and teens with mental, emotional and behavioral health challenges.  Her work included advocating for court-involved youth and linking children and families to resources in their communities and within their school systems.


Derek Elkins, Data Manager

Derek worked with NJ-STEP as the Admissions Officer for two years assisting students with college enrollment and financial aid after release from prison. Derek transitioned to his current role with NJ-STEP after leading the implementation of the Edvance Software System. Derek measures data needs for specific projects, determines course needs and schedules, establishes data quality standards, and oversees all reporting to VERA, Sunshine Lady, Ford Foundation, Rutgers University, and other NJ-STEP partners.

Derek spent several years working in admissions for the graduate and theological schools at Drew University. Derek holds two M.A. degrees in religion and education from Union Presbyterian Seminary and Drew University; he earned a B.A. in philosophy from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. A focus of Derek’s academic work was the resilience of children with incarcerated parents. His article, “Lift Every Voice: The Humanizing Work of Children’s Testimony in Response to the Effects of Parental Incarceration,” was published in the 2012 volume of the Journal of Childhood and Religion.


Isaiah Fudge, Completion Counselor

Isaiah joins NJ-STEP as the Completion Counselor for the program.  Isaiah’s background in education spans 9 years, where he has held various roles in middle school, secondary, and higher education. He has first-hand experience with many of the flawed systems that negatively impact underserved groups. A certified teacher in the state of New Jersey, Isaiah spent countless hours designing lessons that broadened his students’ thinking about the world around them. He transitioned into guidance when he recognized his ability to impact students in a less confined role.  His approach helped students on the front-end of being “caught in the system”. Now, Isaiah hopes to help students recognize, establish, and explore a new “front-end” in their lives by being a supportive resource as they journey through college.


Reginald Gaines, NJ-STEP Counselor

Reginald  is an academic adviser for NJ-STEP at Northern State Prison. As an adviser he assists students in navigating the pursuit of higher education in prisons and community release programs in addition to providing pre and post release transitional support. Before joining NJ-STEP he served two terms as an AmeriCorps Service Member and remains a dedicated community volunteer as an alumnus. Mr. Gaines is involved in community projects and civic leadership. His activism encompasses outreach, focus groups, and public forums focusing on a range of issues associated with social, economic and environmental circumstances. Mr. Gaines earned his BA degree in Human Resource Management from Rutgers as an NJSTEP participant and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Labor and Employment Relations at Rutgers University.


Latoya Hamlin, NJ-STEP Counselor

Latoya Hamlin is the Academic Counselor at Albert C. Wagner Youth Correctional Facility and Garden State Youth Correctional Facility. She is a graduate of Rutgers University College of Arts and Sciences-New Brunswick, where she majored in English. Latoya is also a graduate of Monmouth University’s School of Education where she earned an MSEd in Student Affairs and College Counseling. Latoya is a nationally certified counselor with a passion for academic advising and social justice issues.


Gerardine Philippe, Institutional Liaison

Gerardine Philippe is the Institutional Liaison for NJ-STEP, serving as the primary point of contact between NJ Dept. Of Corrections , NJSTEP Staff, and Institutional Partners. She maintains regular communication with the different entities to help ensure that that overall goals of NJ-STEP are met. Gerardine earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology at Montclair State University. At MSU she had the privilege of teaching Psychology to first-year students before her departure. Gerardine also earned both her M.A. and Ph.d. in Educational Psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia, where she served on various research team boards. Her own research focused on understanding the self-regulatory skills and motivation of students deemed academically underprepared upon college admission. Gerardine is an active member of her church community, Maranatha Baptist Church, where she enjoys leading in the Young Adult department.


Amarilis Diamond-Rodriguez,  STEP Academic Counselor

Amarilis Rodriguez is the Academic Counselor at New Jersey’s Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women and the Mountainview Youth Correctional Facility. She is a graduate of both Rutgers University and Douglass College, where she completed her Joint Bachelor of Arts in Women’s and Gender Studies, and Information Technology and Informatics with a minor in Social Justice – graduating cum laude. As a Ronald E. McNair Scholar, she researched the effects of migration on gender identity in Puerto Rican women. She was also an Aresty Undergraduate Research Fellow and the recipient of the 2013 Dee Garrison Award for Justice and Peacemaking, along with many other awards. She also earned an MA in Criminal Justice from Rutgers School of Criminal Justice in 2018. Amarilis currently serves on the Rutgers – Newark Staff Council.