Essex County Sheriff Department inmates who completed educational programs provided by Northern Essex Community College were recently recognized during a ceremony at Middleton House of Correction.
Jillian Nelson, assistant superintendent, Essex County Sheriff’s Department, said the educational progress proves that “great things can happen in the most unexpected of places.” Speaker Dennis Everett, UTEC director of reentry, noted his own difficult childhood because of family violence and multiple incarcerations.
“All of my gains wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t done the internal work,” Everett said, asking the inmates “to restore family relationships” and “move to forgive yourselves.”
Students were recognized by Education Director Darla Lamanna and the Northern Essex Community College staff, Spectrum Health Systems, Roca and UTEC.
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. Sheriff Kevin F. Coppinger said providing educational opportunities for inmates is a priority. “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.”
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 and a program director. Programs include preparation classes for students taking the high school equivalency exam, three-credit college courses and a week-long class leading to certification as a peer tutor.
Dylan Flanagan received the highest score on the HiSET test and was the class valedictorian. 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.”
Northern Essex President Lane A. Glenn told 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.