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Barton Community College holds Learning Celebration at ECF

by admin last modified Jul 07, 2015 01:29 PM
On Nov. 29, 2013, Barton Community College (BCC) representatives hosted the ninth annual Learning Celebration at Ellsworth Correctional Facility (ECF), at which the college highlighted the success of the partnership and recognized the accomplishments of inmates of the facility.
Barton Community College holds Learning Celebration at ECF

Barton President Heilman speaks at ECF

The Spiritual Life Center was full of ECF and BCC representatives, community members, donors, partners, inmates and family members for the ceremony and reception.

The college recognized inmates for completion of GED, WorkReady, 18-credit hour achievement, 32-credit hour achievement, manufacturing skills and
welding.  BCC’s foundation office issued student scholarships and presented the first instructor award. 

Closing comments were made by Marc Gallaher, President of the Agriculture Division of Great Plains Manufacturing.  Recently, Great Plains announced their willingness to donate the majority of the required gas for the welding and bike technician programs at ECF.

“It was an amazing experience and we lift our hats to our partners (in the KDOC) who allow us the opportunity to provide learning opportunities for inmates,” said Elaine Simmons, dean of Workforce Training & Community Education for the college, following the event.

“It takes all of us working hard – communicating, planning, meeting the challenges and celebrating to experience this achievement.”

The following is a news release from the college following the celebration.

Barton celebrates inmate success at Ellsworth Correctional Facility

The current stereotype surrounding prisons is that they are built to punish. While that’s technically part of the criminal justice process, Barton Community
College and the Kansas Department of Corrections are giving inmates the opportunity to improve themselves through education, which is contributing to the change in how prisons are perceived.

More than 80 inmates were recognized during the Ninth Annual Learning Celebration on October 29 at the Ellsworth Correctional Facility for reaching milestones in their educations through Barton’s Building Academic Skills In Correctional Settings (BASICS) program.

Jason, an inmate for about two decades, was put in prison at age 16. He had a fifth-grade education and struggled with reading and writing, but managed to earn his GED in 2001 at another prison. After the current semester, he will have 36 hours toward his associate degree, and eventually a bachelor's degree.

"It's a goal, and it gives me something to live for," he said. "I want to educate myself the entire time I'm incarcerated. It was really like a
life-changing event when I started taking classes. I had spent about 17 years in prison, and had many left to go. I just thought to myself, 'What am I going to do, just sit here and rot in prison, and then just fade away?' I took English Composition 1, and it was just a whole other world. It was like parts
of my brain were stimulated that had never been touched before.

"I was 16-years-old for 20 years," he said. "I think I'm finally growing up."

Many inmates had similar stories, and all made different mistakes to end up in prison. All, however, were united Tuesday evening as they came together to celebrate their successes.

Some were awarded a GED or recognized for achieving Work Ready status as recognized by the state of Kansas. Others had taken the next step and earned certificates in a trade like welding, computers or manufacturing skills.

All of these opportunities are afforded to inmates thanks to grant funding and the drive of several employees and administrators at Barton and Ellsworth
Correctional Facility, such as Dean of Workforce Training and Community Education Elaine Simmons, who helped start the program several years ago.

"Soak this up. Do not let this moment get past you," Simmons said. "Feel it. Embrace it and understand it. And tomorrow, do something with it."

Many of the inmates were able to take courses with the help of privately funded scholarships. Barton Foundation Director Darnell Holopirek distributed certificates to the 28 scholarship recipients.

"You keep working as hard as you are, and I'll keep working as hard as I am, and we're going to make a team," she said to the crowd. "Nine years ago,
I walked in here with three scholarships, (now there are more than two dozen). So, you can see how people value what you're doing. You believe in yourselves - I believe in you and the college believes in you."

As the inmates take advantage of Barton’s offerings, make progress toward their degrees or certificates, and are eventually released, they would do well to keep the challenge issued by Barton President Dr. Carl Heilman’s at the forefront of their minds.

"Make something of it for each of yourselves, and don't stop... don't stop. Do something of value with your education," Heilman said. "That's my
message, and it's a simple one, but it's a challenge, gentlemen. What you make of it, is up to you."

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