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$1.1 million grant to aid PCC’s new juvenile justice program
Photos and Story by James Hill
Portland Community College has been awarded more than $1.1 million from the US Department of Education for a new juvenile justice reentry education program called the Opening Doors Project.
The project will provide career-technical education and wrap-around services to approximately 100 incarcerated juvenile females during the next three years at Oak Creek Youth Correctional Facility in Albany. Led by PCC, Opening Doors brings together a group of public and community-based organizations to strengthen educational programming, transitional services and engagement for this population. Partners include PCC, Oak Creek Youth Correctional Facility, Three Lakes High School, Worksystems Inc., Oregon Tradeswomen Inc., and Constructing Hope.
Set to launch this fall, the project will be supported by a director, a case manager and a small team of instructors, including Computer Applications and Office Systems Program instructor Noreen Brown, who will start teaching at Oak Creek in September.“I believe that those who overcome the types of hardships these young women face bring unique insights to our community,” said Dan Wenger, division dean of Arts & Professions at the Cascade Campus. “It is not only about them being successful by standard measures such as getting a job or going on with their education, but about their experience adding up to something more powerful.”
The female youth will receive instruction in computer applications systems that will feed into the Career Pathways Program, which helps people find the right career and education path through short-term stackable certificates. In addition, Opening Doors staff will provide youth with internships at trade organizations and other education opportunities.
Three tracks will be available to the students on release: They can continue with Career Pathways courses at PCC, enter state-approved pre-apprenticeship programs, or go directly into the job market.
The Career Pathways component will offer inmates wrap-around career and college success coaching both inside the prison and upon their release. This includes program staff working with them while in the facility to find the right career path, and creating a career and college plan they can pursue once they leave.
When released, the new students will be empowered to navigate the college’s resources on campus and online. Plus, the computer application systems courses through Career Pathways will not only count toward a program certificate and degree, but also will provide foundational computer skills that are critical to navigating and succeeding in college, finding housing, or applying for jobs.
“Our department is focused on equity and access, and we are incredibly excited to be expanding our services to reach the young women at Oak Creek,” said Kate Kinder, Career Pathways manager. “The grant’s systemic approach will not only allow the young women to realize their potential, but will also result in strategies that can be scaled up across the state to increase the economic mobility and opportunities for communities impacted by the criminal justice system.”