College Readiness Seminars
The majority of incarcerated youth enter the juvenile justice system already struggling and behind in school. The numbers of these youth with three or more adverse childhood events (http://www.cdc.gov/ace/) is unacceptable. Too many have stories and scars of being told they were stupid and that college --- be it a vocational program that blends their love of art and mechanics, or a 4-year program that prepares them to be teachers themselves ----is out of their reach.
Our innovative College Readiness seminars help incarcerated youth see that college is not only in their reach, but within their rights.
How it works
Faculty and students from the Evergreen State College travel to juvenile correctional institutions within Washington State. Alongside incarcerated youth, they implement a weekly Popular Education Seminar over a 10-week cycle. Evergreen’s Five Foci of Learning along with these four principles, are core elements:
- With faculty guidance, students create an environment in which each person becomes empowered to share their personal knowledge, values and goals through respectful exchanges with people from other cultural and class backgrounds.
- Incarcerated youth and Evergreen College students are co-learners and shape both the seminar content and experience together. This includes design and facilitation of workshops.
- Seminars are rooted in conscientization – critical reflection of socioeconomic conditions, identities, and internalized messages of self and others.
- We are all both learners and teachers and should shape the course of our own studies.
Incarcerated youth can earn two college credits and/or two high school elective credits for completing Gateways Popular Education Seminar. Over one hundred incarcerated youth have earned college credits since the programs inception.
“Gateways helped me get over my fear of public speaking. Every class session I was exposed to new ideas and approaches on how to overcome it. There were not many days where we didn’t have to make ourselves known. We could expose our fear, worries, motivations and concerns in a supportive environment. I now enjoy speaking and performing in front of people.”
Academic Mentoring Program (AMP)
Gateways’ Academic Mentoring Program (AMP) provides additional support to youth in our college readiness seminar classes and youth engaged in high school or vocational courses at juvenile correctional institutions.
Helping youth transition from incarceration to further academic study and vocational training through linkages to age-appropriate community supports and services is also an integral component of AMP.
Through a Positive Youth Development framework (link), youth identify and achieve realistic goals, generally over a 10-week period. Over 350 incarcerated youth have been matched with college student mentors since 2009.
Similar to our college readiness seminars, incarcerated youth shape the content and experience of AMP through designing and leading group mentoring workshops.
“Gateways and my mentors are helping me keep a promise to my grandmother that I would finish high school no matter what.”
“The thing I liked most is that my mentors helped me understand math problems in an easier way.”
Consistent with a Positive Youth Development framework, incarcerated youth are involved in all aspects of Gateways program design, implementation and evaluation.
Preparedness and Expectations for All Gateways Program Participants
1. Articulate and assume responsibility for their own work.
Gateways for Incarcerated Youth participants will know how to work well with others, not only in the workplace or social contexts, but as active participants in the struggle for a more just world. They will assume responsibility for their actions as individuals and exercise power responsibly and effectively.
2. Participate collaboratively and responsibly in our diverse society.
Gateways participants will understand that by giving of themselves, they make the success of others possible. A thriving community is crucial to our own well-being. The study of diverse worldviews and experiences help them to develop the skills to act effectively as local citizens within a complex global framework.
3. Communicate creatively and effectively.
Gateways participants will know how to listen objectively to others so as to understand and accept a wide variety of viewpoints. By developing a genuine interest in the experiences of others, they will learn to ask thoughtful questions, to communicate persuasively, and express themselves creatively.
4. Demonstrate integrative, independent, critical thinking.
Gateways participants will have the ability to appreciate and critically evaluate a range of topics, across academic disciplines. As they explore these disciplines, they will develop a greater curiosity toward the world around them, and its interconnections, that will enhance their skills as independent, critical thinkers.