Edmonds College hosts event to empower justice-involved students08/31/23
|Susie Leavell, senior reentry administrator with the Washington State Department of Corrections, gave the keynote speech during Tuesday’s session of the Summer Institute. (Photo Courtesy: Arutyun Sargsyan)|
From Aug. 29-30, the Snohomish County Community Partnership for Transition Solutions (SnoCo CPTS), in partnership with Edmonds College, hosted the 2023 Summer Institute. The event brought together reentry service providers and individuals affected by incarceration from across the state to network, share expertise, identify and refine best practices, and foster sustainable partnerships to create successful pathways for people returning from incarceration into the community.
Attendees participated in the two-day gathering held this year on the campus of Edmonds College. As the only college in Snohomish County that employs reentry program staff, Edmonds was the perfect setting for the 14th annual event. It gave Edmonds staff members April Roberts, a reentry education navigator, and Dennis Gibb, a veteran’s outreach specialist and Homeless Veterans' Reintegration Program (HVRP) navigator, a chance to share the unique features on campus that empower justice-involved students as they navigate higher education.
“I am honored to have helped bring this event to the Edmonds campus,” said Roberts. “I lived a life of addiction for many years and am no stranger to the justice system. The Next Steps program has been on campus for over a decade. I started as a student in the program and found a mentor in the previous navigator, Merritt Hicks. She changed my life. When she retired the college gave me a shot, and here I am.
“Reentry is my passion because I know that programs like Next Steps and people like Merritt and Dennis Gibb can be why someone chooses to keep going. What we are doing here at Edmonds College is meeting a need in our community. Its importance reaches far beyond the borders of the campus. It follows our students and makes huge impacts in our communities.”
Edmonds has served the justice-impacted community for over 40 years. The campus has programs that provide formerly incarcerated individuals with academic and mental health counseling, financial assistance, and even a computer if necessary. Edmonds also partners with Monroe Correctional Complex so individuals can earn their GED, high school diploma, professional certification, or associate degree while incarcerated.
“We have a rich history of helping justice-impacted community members reintegrate into society,” said Edmonds College President Dr. Amit B. Singh. “Our valued partnership with the Department of Corrections allows both parties to truly change lives and provide a second chance to individuals willing to put in the hard work.”
Gibb, a formerly incarcerated Vietnam veteran, works closely with justice-impacted veterans. He has connected with fellow veterans on campus and those who are currently incarcerated to help them navigate Edmonds's programs.
“Being justice-involved, I know how difficult the journey from incarceration can be,” said Gibb. “Meetings like the Summer Institute allow us to share what works and what doesn’t and learn about new initiatives to help with the journey. I will always be grateful to Edmonds College for allowing me to pursue this work.”
More information on Edmonds’s Next Steps Program can be found at: https://www.edmonds.edu/student-services/next-steps/