Re-Entry Students Access Education and Success

Rebecca A. Eckland
Justice Involved Vocational Education first completers

The first participants in TMCC's Justice Involved Vocational Education Program (JIVE) received completion certificates at a graduation ceremony hosted on the Dandini Campus.

On Wednesday, Dec. 12 the first participants in the Truckee Meadows Community College Justice Involved Vocational Education Program (JIVE) received completion certificates from the program, which offered reintegration supports and services for previous offenders. The ceremony, which focused on the positive changes made by the students, celebrated perseverance, dedication and drive. “I am delighted that TMCC has developed a program that transforms the lives of students and lowers the recidivism of crime rate in our community,” said TMCC President Karin Hilgersom. “It has been rewarding to see these students work hard to complete a program that will enable them to apply for jobs that will sustain them and their families.”

JIVE participants have all been charged with crimes in the past, and some have served sentences for their crimes. Any level of system involvement can erode social and emotional supports most of us take for granted, making the transition back to pursuing education or a career especially challenging. “The sound of a prison gate closing behind you… it’s chilling, and you know that you have entered a totally different world,” said Dr. Karen Gedney, who was the keynote speaker for the event. Gedney, who spent almost thirty years as a prison physician, applauded the participants for persevering in the program, and seeking to rebuild their lives. “I’m so happy to see the guys given the opportunity to be successful,” said Gedney.

The program was launched in July 2018 under the direction of Camille Vega, Coordinator, and Travis Sharpe, Training Coordinator, of the TMCC Re-Entry program. The completion ceremony celebrated thirteen completions and issued nine additional certificates to make a strong statement about the human spirit and the possibility for positive change.

The JIVE program received partial funding from the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED), enabling participants to receive vocational training in relevant and in-demand industries, which will help to break the cycle of system involvement. “GOED is proud to support TMCC and their partner's efforts to develop a coordinated approach to delivering a much needed gateway to workforce development for the justice-involved,” said Stacey Bostwick, Workforce Development Program Coordinator for GOED. “It is critical to prepare returning citizens for success in education and provide opportunities to gain practical, in demand skills. This program is a testament to the State's commitment to afford access to high-skill and high-wage opportunities to all Nevadans.”

These positive outcomes align with the mission of several state agencies, including the Nevada Division of Parole and Probation. “The Nevada Division of Parole and Probation’s mission is to reintegrate justice involved individuals successfully into society,” said Sergeant Eric Estepa. “The JIVE program is another resource officers have so that participants can be offered an opportunity to obtain educational services and career guidance. The Division is pleased to see the first completion of the program, and we look forward to working in collaboration to make the program a success.”

Lt. Jonathan Wilson, Facility Manager for Northern Nevada Transitional Housing, encouraged the men housed in his facility to pursue their education while they worked on transitioning back to the community. Several of his wards participated in the JIVE program, earning industry relevant certificates in the Panasonic Preferred Pathway (P3) Program, Certified Logistics and Food Safety and Handling. “As a result of this pilot semester—and for the population from NNTH alone—the state will recoup the cost of this program within six months from having these men in the workforce, and not incarcerated,” said Wilson.

The JIVE program offered certificate programs that are in-demand with Nevada employers. Don Soderberg, Director of the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR), is enthusiastic about the program and for its participants’ projected success. Soderberg says, “Across the state, our market is in need of qualified employees. There is a considerable workforce that can be drawn from those who have been formerly incarcerated—and who are very eager to succeed. Working with this population has been a success.”

This Project is funded in part by the State of Nevada’s Workforce Innovations for a New Nevada Fund, administered by the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development. For more information about the JIVE program, please contact Camille Vega at 775-674-7987.