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Clark County Jail inmates earn certifications through adult education program
The Evening News and The Tribune - 3/24/2023
Mar. 24—JEFFERSONVILLE — An adult education program is helping inmates at the Clark County Jail prepare for a brighter future.
A graduation ceremony was held Friday at the jail for six participants who completed a pre-apprenticeship construction program at the jail. River Valley Resources led the pilot program in partnership with Ivy Tech Community College in Sellersburg. Two of the participants earned high school equivalency degrees through the adult education program.
Konnie McCollum, director of adult education at River Valley Resources, praised the group for making a "positive change."
"What you've now done is you've given yourself an opportunity," she said. "When you get out, you have an opportunity to continue to learn and earn, and you've set yourself up immediately for success."
Anyone who successfully completed the construction pre-apprenticeship program is eligible to enter the Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters, and they earned nationally-recognized certifications and credentials.
"They get six months off of an apprenticeship, and they go in eligible for benefits automatically," McCollum said.
Christopher Bronk received a high school equivalency diploma through the program, and he earned multiple certifications.
"My mom's going to be proud of me," he said.
He is excited to begin the carpentry apprenticeship after he is released from the Clark County Jail.
"I did something good for myself," he said. "All the years that I've been living life I have done negative things, and I got a feeling of what it feels like to do something positive. That feels better than the negative."
Timothy Tyler received multiple certifications from the program, and he is also looking forward to beginning work in the carpentry trade.
"I received a good opportunity to support me and my family when I get out," he said. "I finally got a trade where I don't have to resort to crime [or] drugs. It's a big accomplishment in my life, and I appreciate it."
Ivy Tech helped the students train for an Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) certification.
It was a 7-week, "very intensive" program, McCollum said. Most of the program was completed virtually, which was a major challenge.
"The jail was absolutely on board and supportive [of] working with us," she said. "Ivy Tech worked with us. We all came together and collaborated. This has been a work in process for months."
McCollum said another cohort for the program has already started, and River Valley Resource also plans to get female inmates involved with the construction pre-apprenticeship program. The nonprofit is also pitching the program to other jails in its service area.
River Valley Resources teacher Carey Bowling said the construction pre-apprenticeship program is the "biggest opportunity we've been able to present."
"It's a really fantastic opportunity, and it's worth it, because two of our students have already been released," she said. "One is employed, and the other has an interview on Tuesday. So it's working."
Clark County Sheriff Scottie Maples hopes the program will help with issues of recidivism, saying the goal is "to keep people out of jail the right way."
"It's a passion for me to keep people out of jail, so even if one of you does not come back to jail after this program, it's a success," he told the group.
Matthew Cupp, a workforce development consultant for Ivy Tech Sellersburg, said the community college helped set up OSHA modules and helped with instruction.
"We're just very happy to give them an industry-recognized certification so they can get a job," he said. "They look excited, so we're excited. We're happy to help them. We've heard that they have jobs lined up, which is exciting for our community. We're looking forward to doing a couple more cohorts with [the jail] and getting more people jobs."
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