May 6, 2020

Washington County Community College one of 67 new schools announced in the program expansion

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, the U.S. Department of Education announced Washington County Community College (WCCC) is included in the expansion of the Second Chance Pell Experimental Sites Initiative to provide need-based Pell grants to people in state and federal prisons. Currently, there are 63 colleges that teach in 26 states participating in Second Chance Pell; this second cohort of 67 new schools will bring the total to 130 colleges in 42 states and the District of Columbia.

The vast majority of incarcerated people will one day return home, and providing access to postsecondary education in prison means that these individuals are far less likely to recidivate and are better equipped to play productive and positive roles within their communities. Access to postsecondary education also improves prison safety for both incarcerated people and corrections employees alike.

“Washington County Community College is excited to be joining a select group of colleges designated to administer the Second Change Pell program,” said Susan Mingo President of WCCC. “This selection opens up opportunities for individuals within our community and across the State of Maine to participate in a distance education degree program that will provide a pathway to in-demand careers upon release. This program will be life changing for families and WCCC is proud to be able to expand upon the work we’ve been engaged in with the Southern Maine Women’s Re-Entry Center (SMWRS) in Windham,” said Mingo. For the past year and a half, the college has been offering a pilot program for incarcerated women at that facility to obtain a credential of value in Production Technology through coursework and an apprenticeship program that culminate in a national credential from the Manufacturing Skills Standard Council. “The demonstrative success of this pilot program was the impetus for our application to participate in the Second Chance Pell Experimental Site Initiative,” explains Mingo. “We look forward to the expansion of this initiative to include three other Maine facilities; The Women’s Center, Mountain View Correctional Facility, and Downeast Correctional Facility when it reopens.”

“Second Chance Pell is a wonderful opportunity for WCCC, Maine Department of Corrections (DOC), and the residents of the DOC facilities.  This programming focuses on Entrepreneurship and Business Management, as well as Production Technology.  It is relevant and rigorous and is delivered in a highly supportive learning environment with our instructors,” said WCCC Dean of Workforce and Professional Development Nichole Sawyer. Sawyer has been instrumental in bringing to fruition the current programming at SMWRC and has persistently worked to create new opportunities that build and improve career pathways for individuals seeking to upskill or retrain. Sawyer explains, “Some residents will be able to put their skills to work prior to their release allowing them to gain valuable on-the-job learning. Combine this with the online training, and we’ve got a perfect recipe for apprenticeship which will result in yet another nationally recognized credential for the residents.  This is a win-win for Maine businesses and for the residents trying to turn their lives around.”

The Vera Institute of Justice has been providing technical assistance to the participating colleges and corrections departments since the initiative’s inception, working to ensure that the programs provide quality higher education in prison and post-release.

“This expansion of Second Chance Pell will improve lives and strengthen communities,” said Nick Turner, president and director of the Vera Institute of Justice. “The expansion is also a testament to the fact that broader access to college in prison is a strategy that works — to improve safety and expand opportunity in our country.”

“I’ve had the pleasure of visiting several Second Chance Pell institutions and have seen firsthand the transformative impact this experiment has on the lives of individuals who are incarcerated,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. “By expanding this experiment, we are providing a meaningful opportunity for more students to set themselves up for future success in the workforce. The stories I’ve heard from students and institutions engaged in the experiment are very encouraging, and we look forward to seeing how this expansion will help even more students achieve a better future.”

To see a full list of sites selected in the second cohort of Second Chance Pell, visit the U.S. Department of Education’s website here.

For information please contact Nichole Sawyer, Dean of Workforce and Professional Development at (207) 454-1040 or nsawyer@wccc.me.edu with any questions.