Pilot Program and Partnerships Lead to Skills and Credits in FDCF and NCCF
Pell Grant Pilot Program and Partnerships with Iowa Central Community College Lead to Skills and Credits in FDCF and NCCF
Courtesy of Abby Underberg, Education Coordinator at FDCF, and Mike Glover, Corrections Officer at NCCF
In 2015 the Department of Education put forth the opportunity for colleges from across the United States to apply and if selected, participate in a 3-5 year pilot program that opens up the opportunity for those who are currently incarcerated to apply for a federal Pell grant. Iowa Central Community College decided to apply for this opportunity. We felt strongly about our partnerships with both Fort Dodge Correctional Facility and North Central Correctional Facility in that we would have the support to implement a program in a short time frame. Iowa Central was one of 67 colleges from across the Nation that was selected to participate, and the only college in Iowa. To date, we have had great success in training the offenders in programs that were carefully selected. Our goal was to provide programs that will allow the men who have been trained, to go out in their communities upon release, and to find employment. Discussions with industry leaders from across the state led us to the following programs. Welding, Supply Chain Management and Industrial Machinist. At Fort Dodge there is also a Carpentry and Baking program.
To-date we have had the following complete or are currently enrolled in the semester-long program at FDCF and NCCF:
Industrial Machinist = 12
Supply Chain Management = 95
Welding = 121
Carpentry = 28
Culinary Baking = 57
Overall Approx. Total = 313
We have had 3 full semesters for Welding, 2 full semesters for Supply Chain Management and 2 full semesters for Industrial Machinist.
The biggest hurdle is getting the right offenders in the right class at the right time. At NCCF we have an additional challenge in that many of the men at the facility are not there for a long period of time. In order to participate in either Welding or Industrial Machinist, the offender must have his “outs” level granted. This means they must be at the facility for a length of time to prove that they are someone that can be trusted to be bused out of the facility to the Iowa Central campus. This also means that they are many times, close to release. So our biggest hurdle is not lack of interest, it is lack of time to serve. Iowa Central staff is looking at ways to creatively work around this hurdle and look forward to finding a way to serve a greater number of students.
Upon completion, the student will have earned a certificate from Iowa Central Community college as well as 12-15 college credits. These certificates can be used to continue on to complete the full degree upon release. We support and encourage all of our students to continue with their education but we fully understand the barriers that each offender faces when they leave the facility. They must find employment. The education that they receive in these college programs, prepares them for the workforce. We have had several students contact us to let us know that they only way that they were able to secure a job is by showing that they had completed the training while they were incarcerated.
We recently held a graduation ceremony and I can tell you that it is one of the best days of the year to see the smiling faces and the proud looks of their friends and family members who came to support them. We are so honored to have the privilege of providing this opportunity to those that truly want to make a meaningful change in their lives. We are very excited to explore new opportunities to do this and hope to offer additional training programs in the near future.
In interviewing some of the graduates, here is what they had to say:
Question: Why do you feel this program is helpful?
What are some of the aspects of welding class that you feel benefited you the most?
Graduate 1: "It (welding class) got me back into welding and I want to make a career out of it. It's a positive step going to school with others who are also trying to improve themselves and I do not want to go back to my old ways."
Graduate 2: "This program and the other classes I've taken (HiSet) have given me the chance to a better life when I get out for my family and myself. It has challenged me to be a better person and accomplish things I knew I could do but didn't know how. I'm going after my welding degree because race don't matter when you're a good welder."
Graduate 3: "Gives us something to pursue as a way to make money legally instead of selling drugs and that lifestyle. I feel my interactions with the class and the people on the outside who have worked with me has made me more respectful and directed to succeed. It has been a life changer (ICCC and NCCF programs) and built my self esteem to know I can do anything."
Graduate 4: "Interacting with peers in a working and learning environment has helped me with my antisocial attitude and become a more socially acceptable one. It has shown and given me direction to strive for a better life and be a responsible adult. This program has really inspired me to make something out of my life. A way to stay away from drugs and violence is one of the main reasons I took this class and I WILL SUCCEED."