Essex County Sheriff Department Celebrates Inmates Who Completed Educational Programming
The Tuesday June 29 Recognition Ceremony for Essex County Sheriff Department (ECSD) inmates who have completed educational programs proves that “Great things can happen in the most unexpected of places,” according to Jillian Nelson, assistant superintendent, Essex County Sheriff’s Department.
At the ceremony, held at Middleton House of Correction, students were recognized by Education Director Darla Lamanna and the Northern Essex Community College staff for successfully completing programs offered by Northern Essex. Spectrum Health Systems, Roca, Inc., and UTEC also recognized students for their achievements. Graduates as well as administrators and teachers attended the ceremony.
Northern Essex has been offering educational programming for the Essex County Sheriff’s Department since 2019 when the college was selected as part of a competitive grant process.
Programs offered by Northern Essex included preparation classes for students taking the HiSET (high school equivalency) exam; three-credit college courses; and a week-long class leading to certification as a peer tutor.
Providing educational opportunities for inmates is a priority, according to Sheriff Kevin Coppinger. “Our motto is every obstacle is an opportunity. We want our clients to know that if something gets in front of them they can fall forward.”
Dylan Flanagan, who received the highest score on the HiSET exam, was named the class valedictorian and was invited to speak at the ceremony.
Wearing a royal blue graduation cap and gown, he said “The main thing that I learned is that, no matter the situation, focus on the positive. Never give up because there’s always a bright side. Thank you for giving me the tools to find my bright side.”
Dennis Everett, director of reentry for UTEC, was the keynote speaker. Sharing his own background, which included a difficult childhood because of family violence and multiple incarcerations, Everett said “All of my gains wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t done the internal work.” He asked the inmates “to restore family relationships” and “move to forgive yourselves.”
Lane Glenn, president of Northern Essex, also spoke, sharing an inspiring story of a student who began taking courses at the correctional facility and transitioned to campus after being released mid-semester. The student is now enrolled in the Business Management Program at the college. “I got in education because I believe in change. This is a room full of people who care for you and your future. We’re here to help you.”
Students who completed a three-credit college course received NECC sweatshirts. All other honorees received an NECC swag bag, which they can use to carry their belongings when they are released.
Northern Essex maintains a staff at the Middleton House of Correction, including on-site academic and career advisors; learning specialists; law librarians for the inmates’ library, which Northern Essex manages; and a program director.
While educational programming was scaled down due to the pandemic, recent changes to inmate housing allowed more inmates to participate in programming this past semester.
Plans for the future include offering additional Northern Essex courses within the facility, continuing with the peer tutoring program, and adding to current class offerings, according to Colleen Dolan, executive director, NECC/ECSD Education Program.
To learn more, contact Dolan, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Northern Essex Community College has campuses in both Haverhill and Lawrence. It offers approximately 60 associate degree and certificate programs as well as hundreds of noncredit courses designed for personal enrichment and career growth. Each year, 6,000 students are enrolled in credit associate degree and certificate programs on the Haverhill and Lawrence campuses; and another 2,000 take noncredit workforce development and community education classes on campus, and at businesses and community sites across the Merrimack Valley. For more information, visit the website at www.necc.mass.edu or call 978-556-3700.