Sebastian Tan, a 10th-grade student at Sewickley Academy, serves as founder, CEO, and lead developer of OutsideConnection, a free website and nonprofit organization that directs users to communities and businesses that are welcoming to individuals seeking reentry. Sebastian is currently in discussions with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) to share and expand the website that connects previously incarcerated people in the Pittsburgh area with workforce openings and opportunities.
Sebastian was inspired to create this website after getting to know some of the employees his family has hired in their business over the years.
“We hire previously incarcerated people as employees, and their hard work has let our business grow and thrive,” he said. “I’ve worked side-by-side with them and have gotten to know them well. I started the platform after learning how many people are released from prison each year. The employees at our family business are hard workers and very motivated, and I want to give similar people across the country the opportunity to be successful as they move forward with their lives.”
On April 28, Sebastian presented at the Allegheny County Anchored Reentry Coalition Summit (ACAR) and showcased the platform he built. He is hopeful that the event will allow him to further develop connections and partnerships with other organizations within the reentry space.
Sebastian also wants to expand the website’s presence into cities outside Pittsburgh. He originally reached out to Rep. Jason Oritay, who put him in touch with Steven Williams in Lt. Gov. Austin A. Davis’s office. The Lieutenant Governor is the chair of the board of pardons. Sebastian was also connected to Charla Plaines of the PA attorney general’s office and Dorenda Hamarlund in the DOC’s Office of Reentry. In addition, Sebastian has spoken with staff at Renewal Inc, a prominent regional reentry program.
“I think that with the help of legislators and political officials, we can make the platform into a valuable resource for corrections facilities,” said Sebastian. “It could also be given to felons who are being released from prison.”
Statistics included on the website support the need for the resource Sebastian has created:
● Every year more than 650,000 people are released from jail.
● 60 percent of people released after one year are unemployed.
As a Sewickley Academy student, Sebastian has taken advantage of the school’s computer science offerings, incorporating the skills he has learned into the development of OutsideConnection.org. As a sophomore, he is currently taking Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science A and will take AP Computer Science Principles next year. Sebastian is also quick to acknowledge the many people, both within and outside of the Academy, who have assisted and provided feedback to date, noting that their support has been essential in making OutsideConnection possible.