About Gateways for Incarcerated Youth

Our ChallengeImage of Gateways Brochure Cover

We all want our community’s youth to succeed - in school and in life. The foundation for a young person’s future begins with their education. Yet, youth who are in the juvenile justice system too often are left behind. Most of the rural school districts serving our juvenile correctional facilities are unable to meet the complex and unique educational needs of incarcerated youth, many of whom have experienced abuse or neglect, unsafe neighborhoods, homelessness, and/or involvement in the foster care system.

Young people typically enter the justice system with few academic credits and low grade point averages, often because they’ve experienced higher rates of suspension of expulsion. Students with disabilities, and those who require special education services, are four times more likely to be incarcerated. Youth of color are overrepresented, both locally and nationally from arrest rates to adult court transfer.

Over 98% of all incarcerated youth are released and return to our communities. However, most do not return to school, earn a high school diploma, or pursue postsecondary education. They struggle with unemployment and recidivism, lacking the educational foundation and societal supports they need to truly turn their lives around.

Our Unique Contribution

Despite the barriers that youth in the juvenile system encounter, with the right tools and support they can succeed as students, which sets them up for greater health and success in work and life.

Gateways for Incarcerated Youth, a public service program of Evergreen State, provides college/college readiness classes and academic mentoring to incarcerated youth and other young people with histories of incarceration. Mentors help youth self-identify interests and goals. Incarcerated youth are actively involved in the design of lesson plans, co-facilitate workshops, and lead discussions with other students. Creative arts are integrated throughout Gateways and the program is guided by Positive Youth Development.

A Gateways education, like all offerings at Evergreen, is not your typical academic experience.There are no pre-programmed majors, core competencies, or prerequisites. Faculty prepares descriptive syllabuses, as opposed to prescriptive curriculum. Classes and workshops link theory to lived experience and current events.

“Gateways keeps my eyes on the prize. It keeps me motivated and working on my diploma and dreams. That includes never going back inside.”
– Gateways Youth Participant

How Our Programs Work

Gateways College Class

Evergreen faculty offer the Gateways College Class twice a week inside the Green Hill School, a juvenile correctional facility for young men under 21. There are many unique features of the Gateways College Class:

Evergreen faculty and college students make a minimum full year commitment. This includes a separate rigorous program studying incarceration from interdisciplinary approaches on the Evergreen campus.

Academic Mentoring Program (AMP)

Evergreen college students and some community members provide academic mentoring within Washington’s Juvenile Justice & Rehabilitation Administration (JJ&RA) facilities. Gateways’ Academic Mentoring Program (AMP) engages youth through individual, peer, and group mentoring models.

Exposure and access to higher education, in all forms, is the major component of AMP. Mentors help youth identify their interests and develop goals based on their sentences. Gateways staff work to connect youth with a wide variety of resources both within the institutions and community.

Community Education

Gateways is a program rooted in social justice and social change. We educate locally and nationally on the educational needs of incarcerated youth. We partner with a wide range of community groups and within both public and private sectors to:

Why Gateways

Correctional facilities are filled with youth who struggle in traditional educational settings and have been let down by adults. Gateways provides the flexibility and individualized approach needed to reengage youth in learning and community. Youth can participate in Gateways for their entire sentence. This could be a few months to many years.

Our open and ongoing learning environment provides youth with the time to trust and discover who they are, and who they want to become.

Our focus on culture – helping all students learn their own and respecting others – is critical to breaking the cycle of incarceration, violence, and recidivism. And our program works. Since its inception, Gateways has provided academic and cultural learning and mentorship to more than 1000 incarcerated youth. Our participants have made academic gains in attendance, grade-level promotion, and credits earned that help them get their lives on track and ensure a brighter future.