Edmonds College hosts event to empower justice-involved students

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), hosted the 2023 Summer Institute in partnership with Edmonds College.

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. The event was also aimed at fostering 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, the only college in Snohomish County that employs reentry program staff. The 12th annual gathering gave Edmonds staff members  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 April Roberts, an Edmonds College reentry education navigator. “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.

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.”

Edmonds staff member Dennis Gibb, a veteran’s outreach specialist and Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HVRP) navigator, is a formerly incarcerated Vietnam veteran who 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 here.

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