Special LTCC program helps incarcerated students succeed, get degrees | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Special LTCC program helps incarcerated students succeed, get degrees

Erin Boetzer receives her diploma from LTCC President/Superintendent Jeff DeFranco.
Provided / LTCC

Lake Tahoe Community College aims to reach underrepresented populations with its programming.

One population the college has focused on is incarcerated and justice system-involved individuals.

The Incarcerated Student Program was first piloted in 2015 and received funding in 2017. In its years of helping students, it’s been successful.

It aims to reach inmates in California’s correctional facilities by providing an enhanced one-on-one pedagogical approach.

“We want to help them evolve as humans,” said ISP Director Shane Reynolds.

The program reaches nine facilities in Northern California within two hours of LTCC.

Reynolds said it’s important the facilities they work with are within driving distance because he and his staff make regular visits.

“I want to see the students, face-to-face,” Reynolds said and added working with students in person helps humanize the students. “We all want respect, they want to be treated like humans.”

The ISP’s first student, Erin Boetzer, chose LTCC for her college studies because of the face-to-face interaction the program offered.

“I feel like they went above and beyond for me,” Boetzer said. “They treated me with more respect than anyone else.”

Boetzer was arrested and sentenced to Santa Cruz County Jail when she was 18 on drug-related charges.

“I started off my life really normal,” Boetzer said, adding she had a good family, good friends and played sports.

The summer before her freshman year, she was raped and her life spiraled down.

“I didn’t tell anyone it happened, I started drinking and hanging out with the wrong crowd,” Boetzer said.

ISP has helped Boetzer turn her life around, though. She said all the resources they gave her helped her succeed.

Students are given the course load upfront, then they get tutoring, individualized feedback, bi-weekly face-to-face visits and video broadcasted lectures.

Most students can qualify for the Board of Governors fee waiver which gives them access to free textbooks and other course materials.

Students in the program can earn an associate’s degrees for transfer in sociology.

The Associates in Art for Transfer degree allows students to transfer to a four-year college or university as a junior.

Part of the goal of the program is not just to have students graduate, but to have them move on with their education upon their release.

Upon Boetzer’s release, she attended a community college in Santa Cruz to get an associate’s degree in business. She’s now in her junior year at Cal State Monterey Bay getting a bachelor’s in business with an emphasis on marketing.

She’s not the only one who’s had success with the program. So far, ISP has had 21 graduates and a “significant amount of dean’s list and honor roll students,” Reynolds said, including Boetzer who earned a 4.0 throughout the whole program.

Reynolds thinks part of the reason the students do so well is because they want to prove they can turn their lives around.

“They want to be good role models and rebuild relationships with their family,” Reynolds said.

Boetzer said not only did she start seeing herself as worthy because of this program but she saw others around change the way they viewed her.

“My parents were proud, my teachers were proud, even the correctional officers were proud of my success in the school,” Boetzer said.

Studies show that education while incarcerated helps inmates succeed in the future.

A 2018 study done by Rand showed that inmates who participated in educational programs are “28% less likely to recidivate.”

Rand also showed in a 2013 study, the cost of educational programs is between $870,000 and $970,000 less than the cost of re-incarcerating the inmates participating in those programs.

LTCC is working to expand the ISP program. They recently teamed up with ADVANCE Network for a culinary boot camp.

ISP has recently connected with LTCC’s Wilderness Education & Outdoor Leadership program to connect the Juvenile Treatment Center in South Lake.

Reynolds said he wants the youth at the center to “feel the trust and love from LTCC.”

“We’re bringing education to them so when they’re released a bridge has been built,” Reynolds said.

The goal is to help youth navigate academia so they choose to continue their education.

“It’s about providing access no matter what the student’s story is,” Reynolds said.

Boetzer said the program is great not just because it helps them with education but with life.

“It gives them a sense of worth, they’re learning time management, responsibility,” Boetzer said. LTCC recently awarded Boetzer a $1,000 scholarship for her continued education and success.

To learn more about the program, visit http://www.ltcc.edu/academics/specialized_programs/incarceratedstudentprogram.php

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