Spotlight on EdCC: The college in prison program

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Dean of Corrections Education, Kristyn Whisman.

Edmonds Community College serves all members of our community, including those housed in Monroe Correctional Complex (MCC). The men’s prison houses 2,500 inmates, and 350 of them attend classes through EdCC’s corrections education program. Dean of Corrections Education, Kristyn Whisman, recently provided an update to the EdCC Foundation:

“The Edmonds Community College Foundation provided two grants last year to the corrections education program. One grant of $5,000 was for our graduation ceremony including diploma covers, tassels, and food. Those items are considered Department of Corrections gifts, and we can’t spend money on them. Family members come to the ceremony, and the many moms are grateful to receive their son’s graduation tassel. There is no greater day than graduation day.

“We are looking to get new caps and gowns. You can see an instantaneous shift in a prisoner from the morning when he says there is no way he will wear a dress, and then he puts it on and becomes an EdCC graduate in a blue graduation gown.

“The second grant given by EdCC Foundation was $3,000 for developmental education instructor Theodora Doromal-Fletcher to provide 87 textbooks and workbooks. Prisoners cannot access the internet, so they enjoy workbooks, which are consumables.

“By law, students can only receive a GED or one-year vocational program certificate. They cannot receive an associate degree or two-year certificate. We are looking to change that.

“We are very grateful for the support of EdCC Foundation. You’re always there for us. The students and their families are very grateful for the experience they have on graduation day.”

In response to Whisman’s report, a few members of the EdCC Foundation responded. Steve Pennington said he heard of a student who did not want to be released until he finished his course. Libby Lewis said the ceremony may be the first time people in a room have stood up for some of the students.

EdCC Foundation member Adam Cornell, who is a Snohomish County Deputy Prosecutor, said that he worked in a prison for Peace Corps, and saw first-hand the dignity that comes with these small things.

What happens after a person is released from prison? According to Dr. Tonya Drake, Vice President for College Relations and Advancement, EdCC has a Next Steps Re-Entry Program to help with the transition to life post-prison.

To learn more about EdCC, see the college website. And to support programs and students by improving access, excellence, and success, consider donating to the Edmonds Community College Foundation.

 -by Janette Turner

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