Groundbreaking program gives incarcerated individuals the opportunity to earn a college degree
Miami, July 5, 2022 – Miami Dade College (MDC) is set to graduate 19 students as part of the Second Chance Pell (SCP) Experiment, a program from the U.S. Department of Education that provides Pell grants to imprisoned individuals to earn a postsecondary education. Graduates will receive their diplomas at a ceremony taking place at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 26, at Everglades Correctional Institution. Working media must be pre-approved to enter the facility.
MDC was first selected to participate in the program in 2020. After months of preparations, including recruiting and training faculty, enlisting students, processing admissions, and financial aid, the College kicked off its first semester of instruction in January 2021.
Over the course of five semesters, students took 12-13 credits each term to complete a curriculum of 20 classes that included courses in English, mathematics, college preparedness, humanities, philosophy, chemistry, Spanish, social science and more.
The program mirrors some of the standard schooling modalities available at MDC, with most classes offered in a face-to-face format and students working with the Blackboard learning management system to submit assignments and take assessments. Class sessions via Zoom are also available for faculty who cannot travel to the correctional facility; however, most courses offered over the past five semesters were imparted by professors every week to conduct in-person classes.
The program has been a resounding success, with the first cohort graduating with an average GPA of 3.75 and students being recognized for their academic success, as was the case with Larry Fordham, who was selected for an Academic Excellence Award in Social Sciences in April 2022. Fordham was just released from prison after serving 32 years.
“Dr. Brantley and I created the Institute for Educational Empowerment (IEE) at MDC in 2015 after discovering the limited post-secondary educational opportunities available to the over 90,000 individuals incarcerated in a state or federal prison in Florida,” said Prof. Samantha Carlo. “As faculty who are committed to the mission of MDC, we believe that education is the great equalizer. Receiving an education while incarcerated can help to level many of the obstacles presented to returning citizens, thus paving the way for a successful future for our students, while improving the communities within which we live.”
After earning associate degrees, graduates of the program are eligible to enroll in MDC’s Supervision and Management bachelor’s program, which starts again in August 2022.
The program continues at MDC with a second SCP cohort that started classes in January. The College is already working on selecting and admitting the third group of students to begin in January 2023. MDC is also expanding the program to other correctional institutions in Florida also in January of next year.
The SCP program at MDC is possible thanks to the dedicated work of Dr. Minca Davis-Brantley, Professor Samantha Carlo, and the Second Chance Pell team. Since 2013, Professors Davis-Brantley and Carlo have worked diligently to bring the Pell program to fruition. The faculty established essential working relationships with key partners and have been at the vanguard of securing grants to help supplement the administrative costs associated with running the program.
The Second Chance Pell Experiment was first established in 2015 by the Obama-Biden Administration to provide Pell Grants to incarcerated individuals to allow them to participate in postsecondary education programs. To date, students have earned over 7,000 credentials, building new skills and improving their odds of success through the initiative. Selected colleges and universities partner with federal and state penal institutions in almost all 50 states to enroll thousands of incarcerated students in educational and training programs. The vast majority of selected schools are two and four-year public institutions. For more information visit https://www.vera.org.
WHAT: Second Chance Pell Experiment Graduation
WHEN: Tuesday, July 26, at 5:30 p.m.
WHERE: Everglades Correctional Institution, 1599 S.W. 187th Ave.
For more information about the upcoming SCP graduation, please contact Professor Samantha Carlo at 305-237- 8072, firstname.lastname@example.org.