OVAE Connection - Issue 156 - June27, 2013

OVAE Connection

                                                             June 27, 2013 - Issue 156

Sing Sing

An Unlikely Graduation at Sing Sing State Prison

                              Graduating Class of 2013 at Sing Sing State Prison from Mercy College 

                                               Photograph by Babita Patel, used by permission


On June 5, OVAE Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier delivered the keynote remarks at the commencement ceremony at Sing Sing Correctional Facility for a college program run by Mercy College at Sing Sing State Prison in Ossining, N.Y. In her remarks, Dann-Messier observed that the event was a remarkable one because it was so unlikely given how few incarcerated persons graduate from college and she thanked all the Sing Sing staff members who “are part of this precious, exemplary college program” within the correctional facility. In addition to the contributions of Sing Sing and Mercy College, the program occurred due to the efforts of the nonprofit organization Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison. It was founded to restore college education at Sing Sing through private funding after state and federal funding was discontinued and as a result of inmates at Sing Sing reaching out to religious and academic volunteers for help in 1998. Hudson Link worked first with Nyack College, which led to the first graduation in 2001, and then Mercy College, whose first graduation was in 2004. An alumni network was established in 2007. Of some 300 graduates in a dozen years, not one has returned to prison.

Dann-Messier congratulated and thanked Mercy College for contributing its resources to the graduating students and to those who preceded them and would following them. She remarked, “Running a college program behind bars and serving students with very limited personal financial resources is a challenge and Mercy College deserves tremendous credit for rising to that challenge!” She also noted that, to meet President Obama’s 2020 goal of restoring the U.S. to its position as the premier nation in the world for college completion, non-traditional students, as well as high school students, would have to complete college programs. Students such as those she congratulated exemplified non-traditional routes to success and contributed to meeting the president’s goal. But, Dann-Messier advised, more would be needed even from the graduates she was speaking to—they would have to serve as role models for others, inspiring incarcerated individuals, their family members, teachers, professors, and the prison administrators and policy makers who could learn from their accomplishments and create further opportunities.  

At the same commencement, the valedictorian, Sean Kyler, representing the graduates, stated that “Today we come together to celebrate achievement over failure, perseverance over hesitancy, and better tomorrows over the worst of our yesterdays.” He went on to speak of the intellectual and academic accomplishments that his classmates and he had achieved, and observed that “… hidden in this academic process is a reality that must be acknowledged here today. We are no longer the people we were when we took our first step on this educational journey. We do not perceive or experience the world in the same manner as we once did. Our cognitive ability, as well as our behavior, has subtly undergone a transformation. Yet, this transformation is not so much a metamorphosis into someone new, but actually a reconnection to our authentic self. That person we were before our responses to life's situations detoured us from the socially acceptable paths to success.”

For more about the graduation, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1jOu4DGHbQ. For more about Hudson Link, see http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46979745/vp/49875014#49875014.

In the photo below, Starcia Ague (third from the right)—who was incarcerated from the ages of 15 to 21—is pictured at a meeting this December with OVAE staff to discuss how facility-based educational experiences shaped her development and enabled her to move into a successful adulthood. Ague is a passionate advocate for college opportunities within correctional facilities. Her autobiographical piece “Trouble to Triumph, Fighting for Education Equality as an Incarcerated Youth” was published this month in a special edition of the Harvard Educational Review “Disrupting the School-to-Prison Pipeline.” Pictured with Ague are, left to right, John Linton, Hugh Reid, Zina Watkins, Carolyn Buser, and OVAE Deputy Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin.

Forest Service Announces Distance Learning Climate Change Program

The Forest Service and others have announced a new distance learning adventure, ClimateChangeLIVE to educate, engage, and inspire students to be part of the climate change solution.  It includes 

  • Climate education resources from 18 partners
  • An interactive website
  • A dynamic partner webinar schedule
  • Two televised webcasts to engage secondary school students in climate solutions 

Register at ClimateChangeLIVE.org to get updates as this resource gets underway.

Save the Date: July 10 Release of OECD Report on Postsecondary CTE in the U.S.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) will release an OVAE-funded report on postsecondary CTE in the U.S. on July 10 at a live event hosted by the New America Foundation (NAF).  NAF will also live stream the event from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Registration information will be shared next week.

Internet Use in America: Where, Why, and How?

Earlier this month, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) released a new report, Exploring the Digital Nation: America’s Emerging Online Experience, co-authored with the Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA). The report is based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s July 2011 Current Population Survey (CPS), Computer and Internet Use Supplement and includes information collected from 53,500 households. Report data reveal dramatic growth in the number of Americans going online and the extent to which they depend on the Internet to engage in a wide range of activities—such as applying for jobs, looking up health information, and civic engagement.  

The report shows that 72.4 percent of American households (88 million households) have high-speed Internet. While most Americans still use a desktop or laptop computer to go online, mobile device use grew significantly. Further, almost all home Internet use came via a broadband connection. 

Exploring the Digital Nation, showed that digital service adoption rates varied by location. Urban households have higher rates of computer ownership and broadband adoption than rural areas. White, Asian-American, high-income, and highly educated households also had higher rates of ownership and adoption rates compared to rural African American and Hispanic households. Despite an increase in the overall percentage of Americans who use the Internet, and the fact that 90 percent of Americans live in areas where high-speed Internet is available, only about seven out of 10 American households are now online at home. About half of the households that chose to not have home Internet connections said it was due to a lack of affordability, and inadequate computing equipment. 

Households with school-age children were more likely than those without children to own a computer and to adopt broadband. The overwhelming majority (92 percent) of people who accessed the Internet did so from home with the remaining Internet users going online at public libraries, workplaces, school, other people’s houses, cafés, and community centers. 

The report shows that widespread Internet use benefits society. Even so, approximately 30 percent of the 119 million households represented in the CPS did not use the Internet at home, which contributed to the persistence of a “digital divide.” In light of that, an ongoing focus of the CPS data collections in the Digital Nation series will be to examine households that do not have broadband Internet service to assess why they do not. Broadband adoption is seen as key to ensuring that all Americans can take full advantage of the opportunities presented by the digital economy.

                       A Special Notice on the Affordable Care Act to Help Those Who Are Uninsured

The Affordable Care Act has a primary goal of helping those who are uninsured and eligible to get affordable, quality health care. To do this, the Health Insurance Marketplace has been formed to help eligible Americans get information and buy health insurance when open enrollment begins on Oct. 1, 2013. Go to marketplace.cms.gov to find tools, information, and resources. They include a schedule of webinars about the Affordable Care Act, the Marketplace, and available exchanges. Please share this information with your constituencies.