Literacy Highland Lakes Receives Governor's 2014 Criminal Justice Volunteer Award

Literacy Highland Lakes Receives Governor's 2014 Criminal Justice Volunteer Award

Front row, from left to right: Literacy Highland Lakes Executive Director Sally May, group board member Sue Wieland and volunteers JoAnn Donnelly and Genie Boyd.
Back row, from left to right: Texas Board of Criminal Justice Chairman Oliver Bell, Keynote Speaker Judge Cathy Cochran and Texas Department of Criminal Justice Executive Director Brad Livingston.

(AUSTIN, TX. - APRIL 17, 2014) – During ceremonies in Austin, Sally May of Granite Shoals accepted the Governor’s 2014 Criminal Justice Volunteer “Judy Burd – Windham School District” Award on behalf of Literacy Highland Lakes. For 27 years, this 501(c)(3) volunteer-based non-profit group has conducted GED classes at the Ellen Halbert Unit in Burnet, Texas.

The award was presented by Oliver Bell, Chairman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, and TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston.

“These men and women give their time not for monetary reward,” said Livingston. “They volunteer because they have a personal passion in seeing others succeed. We are grateful for their selfless dedication.”

Literacy Highland Lakes volunteers come to the Halbert Unit twice a week to teach and help offenders in one-on-one scenarios prepare for the GED test. With enthusiasm and patience they work with the offenders to accomplish their goal. Last year, 41 offenders received their GED. All of the tutors are college graduates and most have been teachers. In recognition of their dedication, the volunteers of Literacy Highland Lakes have been selected to receive the Windham School District’s “Judy Burd” Award.

The award is named in tribute to curriculum specialist Judy Burd who worked for the Windham School District where she developed the nationally recognized pre-release program called CHANGES. She was also the Volunteer Program Coordinator for the district who encouraged others to give of their time in service to others. Judy Burd also taught adult education classes at night in her community where she helped many people learn to read and write.

Literacy Highland Lakes is one of 6 organizations and 15 individuals from across the state recognized for their efforts to help inmates and those who are on parole or probation. Annually, some 21,000 volunteers make 145,000 visits to criminal justice facilities and work with offenders who are on supervision, donating some 460,000 hours of service.

 

More news about the Criminal Justice Volunteer Award:

Literacy Highland Lakes Receives Criminal Justice Volunteer Award

Sour Lake Man Receives Governor's 2014 Criminal Justice Volunteer Service Award

 

 

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Why teach offenders in Windham School District? - "Correctional education is important because someday these guys are going to be my neighbors. They are somebody's child, somebody's father, and somebody's brother. We need to help them get there. They are going to be back in society, and I want them to be productive citizens. … so I need to help them -- or we need to help them – I can't do anything by myself. I expect my students to learn respect, empathy and the ability to succeed."

osha poster web

BY NICOLE WILCOX  
Staff writer
Published September 2, 2015
Reprinted courtesy of The Navasota Examiner
Navasota, Texas

 

Reporter Nicole Wilcox of the Navasota Examiner recently visited the Luther Unit for a first-hand look at Windham School District and how correctional education is helping offenders prepare for a successful life after release.  Her positive report is shared below, courtesy of The Navasota Examiner.

 

Welding instructor Van Campbell tells reporter Nicole Wilcox why he became a WSD teacher.

Most residents can recall four school districts within the county - Navasota, Anderson-Shiro, Iola and Richards – but there are actually five fully operational districts in our community.


Often forgotten about, the teachers of the Windham School District don’t have bus duty, lunch duty or parent conferences. What they do have is a school surrounded by security fencing and guard towers.

The Windham School District operates within 89 different Texas Department of Criminal Justice units, including both the Luther and Pack units in Navasota. The school district’s goals, as stated by Texas Education Code 19.003, are to reduce the odds of relapse and the cost of confinement or imprisonment, increase the success of former inmates in obtaining and maintaining employment, and provide an incentive for inmates to behave in positive ways during confinement or imprisonment. Students in the CNC Machining program at the Luther Unit learn valuable employment skills.

An individualized treatment plan is created for each offender, taking into account age, program availability, projected release date and varying needs of the offender. To accommodate those needs, the school district has different sections, including literacy and GED programs, career and technical education programs, and life skills programs.

“We are trying to put you in contact with jobs that will change your life,” Windham School District Superintendent Dr. Clint Carpenter said last week to a group of offenders in the vocational program of the Luther Unit.

The latest reports from the 2013-14 school year show 59,678 offenders statewide received WSD educational services. Of these offenders, 66 percent were able to attain a GED or high school diploma or showed significant gains in educational achievements. In addition to normal education classes, Windham offers offenders cognitive intervention and CHANGES programs designed to change the way they handle situations to prevent criminal behavior. CHANGES  is an acronym for changing habits and achieving new goals to empower success.

“I really believe in this program,” said CHANGES teacher Victoria Koehn. “Most of them really want to change but don’t know how. When the environment is right, they really open up.”

Those entered into CHANGES are within two years of getting out of the system. It is a 14-week program that includes role- playing scenarios and a seven-step system of behavior awareness that includes saying no to drugs, civic responsibility, healthy relationship development, apologies and amends, job interview skills and being open to change.

“The healthy relationship development is a big deal,” said Koehn. “Research shows that one good relationship is enough of a motivator to stay free.”WSD integrates vocational and literacy skills to help prepare offenders for successful lives after release.

If an offender has obtained a GED or high school diploma, they are eligible for vocational or college courses. Within the Luther Unit, a few of these courses include electrical, welding and computerized numerical computation. The computerized numerical control course deals with machining fabrication. The majority of fabrication and machining shops in the industry are moving to computerization because the machines are capable of being accurate to within 1/10000 of an inch.

“The majority of these guys are at 250 hours right now and can do the majority of the machine’s programming,” said instructor Mike Klodginksi.

The participating offenders in the computerized numerical computation course will be eligible for entry- level industry certification when they complete the minimum 600 hours of coursework and can opt for an additional 300 hours of advancement.

Electrical instructor Frank Goodman has simulated a work environment within his classroom with each student having an independent stall and project board. He is a firm believer in peer tutoring and teaches students that intrinsic motivation is self-motivation.

“I see my son in each of my students,” said Goodman. “I just want you to get paid for your knowledge.”

Like the majority of the WSD vocational classes, Goodman’s electrical course is six to nine months long, and the students are eligible for first or second year apprenticeship depending on the time put into the training.

“This was a blessing for me. I had an apprentice license before I was incarcerated.  I had the opportunity to go to school, but I wouldn’t do it. This made me come to school and work on becoming a journeyman. I have an opportunity to go back to work with LECS and work for them. I am retaining the info I knew when I was working,” said offender Antonio Rivera Camacho.CHANGES teacher Victoria Koehn (center) describes WSD’s pre-release life skills program to Navasota Examiner reporter Nicole Wilcox (left) and WSD Principal LeeEtta Clabron.

Everyone within WSD has a story. An overwhelming majority of the inmates talk about their families as motivation for participating. For the instructors and administrators, it is often a calling that differs from the course of their previous life.

Welding instructor Van Campbell was a 20-year member of the ironworkers union in Cincinnati before the birth of his first grandchild made him and his wife move to Texas. When asked if he would encourage anyone else to follow in his footsteps, Campbell replied, “As a teacher, yes! It is very gratifying. I’d hire any one of these guys when they leave my class.”

Sen. Charles Perry speaks to graduates in Childress - Graduation speaker Sen. Charles Perry recently inspired WSD students and their visiting families at a Roach Unit commencement ceremony in Childress. He addressed graduates who had completed their High School Equivalency certificates (HSEC) and presented each one with a leather bound copy of the book "Jesus Calling".

Central Texas welders thank CTE teacher for training, influence - Locked up as teenagers and serving about 20 years each for murder charges, Candelario Davila and Jose Sanchez are unlikely success stories.  They were destined to years of solitary time in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's Administrative Segregation, lacking motivation, mentors and job skills.  However, a correctional educator they describe as "father figure" and "the greatest welder ever" provided the intervention needed to transform their lives. Today they are gainfully employed as welders in the Austin area, enjoying their families, freedom and work.