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CDCR, Delta College partnership brings classes to incarcerated youth

Record - 5/13/2018

May 12--STOCKTON -- In Pat McClanahan's introduction to computer science class, the lesson goes beyond building a web page.

Along with learning HTML and JavaScript, these students are preparing for a life after incarceration.

McClanahan, an adjunct professor at San Joaquin Delta College, is one of two professors teaching young offenders from N.A Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility and O.H. Close Youth Correctional Facility.

The face-to-face college classes, which were first offered in the fall of 2017, are a first for a Northern California youth correctional facility, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The data collection on recidivism has shown the higher the education level obtained by offenders, the lower their recidivism rate, according to CDCR.

A row of college pennants decorated the front wall, as McClanahan went over Wednesday's lesson and handed the students examples of JavaScipt to help them build an interactive web page.

"They're receiving the same instruction that a person outside of our facility is receiving," said Linda Bridges, superintendent at Chaderjian and O.H. Close.

The partnership between Delta College and the correctional facility started with just one psychology course last fall. In spring, computer science was added and the goal is to continue expanding and growing the program to allow the young offenders to earn credits toward a certificate, an associate degree or to pursue a four-year program once they're released.

Kevin Smooth, who wore a burgundy polo shirt with the word "College" on the back and "OHC College" on the front, was reviewing his work carefully when he said out loud to himself, "I knew that was it."

Because of McClanahan's class, Smooth has become interested in pursuing a career in computer science. And he's learned he's good at it. He's currently working toward earning an Adobe Dreamweaver certification.

The 20-year-old said he has his eyes set on the University of Southern California in his hometown of Los Angeles.

"For us offenders who want to get out and go to college, this is our starting point," Smooth said. "This is getting me prepared to get out and face life."

When McClanahan began teaching this class 16 weeks ago, he had to rely on lectures and videos. But about halfway through the course, the class received laptops to use during the lessons -- a first for youth at a correctional facility in California, he said.

"It completely changed the dynamic of the class," he said, adding that student engagement increased.

The hands-on training is exciting for Smooth and his classmate Eishal Chand, 20, who are both scheduled to be released in 2019.

Chand was not expecting the students would be able to use computers, and has really taken to computer science and often helps his classmates when McClanahan is busy with another student.

"I think this is a great opportunity because when I get out I plan on going to college and taking computer classes, so this is a good start," he said.

Alberto Gutierrez, the facility's college program director, said the 32 students at the correctional facilities attending college classes must meet all the same prerequisites as any other students to enroll in college and the courses "are no different than if they were sitting in the Stockton campus."

"This is a long overdue program," he said.

Bridges said the more opportunities to expose young offenders to positive interactions the better, and having a professor teach them introduces them to a good role model.

McClanahan, who taught at Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy last year, said rehabilitation goes beyond his classroom but hopes these young men see this opportunity and say "where do we go from here."

Contact reporter Almendra Carpizo at (209) 546-8264 or acarpizo@recordnet.com. Follow her on Twitter @AlmendraCarpizo.

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(c)2018 The Record (Stockton, Calif.)

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