WSD - Windham School District
Literacy Highland Lakes Receives Criminal Justice Volunteer Award
Literacy Highland Lakes received an award for volunteering its literacy services
to female inmates at the Ellen Halbert Unit in Burnet during the Governor’s 2014
Criminal Justice Volunteer ceremony in Austin on April 17. In attendance were
Literacy Highland Lakes Executive Director Sally May (front, left), board
members Sue Wieland and JoAnn Donnelly and volunteer Genie Boyd; and
Texas Board of Criminal Justice chairman Oliver Bell (back, left), keynote
speaker Judge Cathy Cochran and Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Executive Director Brad Livingston. Courtesy photo
Posted on 04 June 2014
BURNET — "I got a 510 on the essay!" beamed the woman standing in the single-file line, the required formation for movement within the Ellen Halbert Unit.
Genie Boyd of Horseshoe Bay, a Literacy Highland Lakes volunteer, turned and spotted the inmate she had tutored for the writing section of the GED test and smiled back. The 510 score on the essay is tantamount to passing with flying colors.
"I told you that you could do it," Boyd replied.
In April, the Windham School District, which oversees the inmate educational program, recognized Literacy Highland Lakes efforts during the Governor 2014 Criminal Justice Volunteer ceremony in Austin.
For many of the female inmates in the Ellen Halbert Unit, earning a GED is the first academic success in their lives. According to the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, the average inmate in Texas has a fifth-grade education, and giving inmates the ability to learn is one of the best ways to reduce their chances of re-offending and maintain public safety for all citizens. So two years ago, when the inmates in Burnet could no longer take classes, their opportunity to re-enter society with a high-school equivalency credential was essentially handcuffed.
In 2011, the Windham School District, the educational program within the Texas prison system, experienced a 27 percent funding cut from the legislature. Hundreds of employee positions were eliminated system-wide, forcing the closure of educational programs at six substance abuse treatment facilities, including the Ellen Halbert Unit.
Trudy Stucky of Sunrise Beach has taught Bible studies at the prison since 1996 and remembered the aftermath of the district’s departure.
"Even the classroom furniture was moved out," she said. "There was such a cloud of disappointment over the whole facility. I heard it compared to mourning a death."
Stucky knew her friend, Genie Boyd, tutored adults in GED preparation as a volunteer for Literacy Highland Lakes. As they were talking one day in the summer of 2012, she asked Boyd if the literacy organization might consider teaching the incarcerated women at the Burnet facility. When Boyd presented the idea to Executive Director Sally May, the answer was a resounding "yes."
Beginning in March 2013, volunteers from Literacy Highland Lakes have helped the Windham School District stretch its budget for literacy classes at the Ellen Halbert Unit. A certified teacher from the district, experienced in working in a prison environment, coordinates with the volunteers. The volunteers come to the Halbert Unit twice a week over 10 weeks to help offenders prepare for the GED test. Windham educators then follow up by administering the GED test to the inmates. Last year, 41 inmates received their GEDs.
In recognition of their dedication, the volunteers of Literacy Highland Lakes received the Windham School District’s Judy Burd Award during the Governor’s 2014 Criminal Justice Volunteer ceremony in Austin on April 17. May accepted the award, which was presented by Oliver Bell, chairman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, and Texas Department of Criminal Justice Executive Director Brad Livingston.
"These men and women give their time not for monetary reward," Livingston said. "They volunteer because they have a personal passion in seeing others succeed. We are grateful for their selfless dedication."
According to May, part of their role is to be cheerleaders for the women to reach their goals. In turn, the literacy volunteers are impressed by the responsiveness and dedication of the women at the Ellen Halbert Unit.
"The women talk about using the GED to better their lives, a springboard into a vocational or trade school," May said. "That’s what keeps us really fired up."
More news about the Criminal Justice Volunteer Award:
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In Dallas: Habitat for Humanity partners with WSD - Windham School District proudly partners with Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity, increasing career opportunities for former offenders and providing additional job training for those who return to the Dallas area. While supporting employment in areas such as warehousing and home construction, Habitat for Humanity offers individuals the chance to give back to society and also rebuild their own lives.
Message to WSD employees:
State Employee Charitable Campaign (SECC) 2017: NOW – Oct. 31!
Once again Windham School District is privileged to support the State Employee Charitable Campaign (SECC), allowing employees to make donations to eligible charities of their choice. Employees at every campus have the option to participate, and WSD is proud of the legacy employees promote through caring for others.
The Windham School District raised $22,314 statewide last year for SECC, topping the 2015 total of $20, 470.
This year's WSD goal is $24,800!
If you are on a unit, you will need to turn in your SECC contribution, cash or payroll deduction (the easiest way!) ASAP to the school office or WSD designee. Donations will then be sent to Dina Valenta in the WSD Administration Business Office and become part of the WSD campaign total. Charity choices and codes are found in the SECC booklets at each school site or go to http://www.secctexas.org/. Forms should also be available at your work site.
If you are in the WSD administration offices, please visit the Superintendent's Office to make your gift to the charity or charities of your choice! Donations may be made with checks, cash or payroll deduction (the easiest way!). In addition, WSD Administration's Annual SECC Silent Auction is scheduled for Oct. 5 in Huntsville (10 a.m. – 2 p.m. ) All employees and WSD friends are welcome to participate, and the auction features hundreds of items in a wide variety of values. Unit and school fundraisers may also involve silent auctions, bake sales, food sales and other events. Everyone is encouraged to also enjoy participating in SECC events held by TDCJ and other agencies.
For the third year, WSD fundraising for SECC will include the sale of official WSD shirts and jackets to school district employees. New items will be hoodies and unit vests/aprons. Proceeds will go to designated SECC charities. More details regarding shirt orders and will be emailed to employees in mid-September.
How do WSD employees help us meet the overall WSD fundraising goal?
- Make a cash, check or payroll deduction donation at your job site.
- Order a new WSD shirt or hoodie (profits to SECC!) –or a few! – Details to be announced soon!
- Participate in WSD fund-raising activities at your site for SECC.
- Enjoy the privilege of helping others in need!
Unit employees should be sure their donations are sent to Dina Valenta in the WSD Business Office in Huntsville, preferably as a campus group.
Do not use truck mail. Please hand deliver or use U.S. Post Office (campus donations need to be sent through the registered mail with tracking number; do not send cash through the regular or truck mail).
Your participation and donations are appreciated! Please join us in helping make a difference in many lives!
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