New classes offered by Colorado State University Pueblo to students at youth detention facilities around the state are helping troubled youngsters get an important leg up as they work toward fulfilling their goals.
The university is teaming up with the Colorado Department of Human Services to offer independent studies classes at the state’s 12 secure youth centers which serve 10- to 21-year-olds who are committed to serve a detention sentence, or who are being held while their cases are going through the courts.
Although the Pueblo Youth Services Center is one of the 12 in the state, director Annette Deitrich said the youth at the local facility have not had access to the college classes through CSU Pueblo.
“On average, a detained youth (under the age of 18) is in the division’s care in a youth center such as Pueblo Youth Services Center for 19 days. Educational services for detained youth are provided through the local school district and because of this short average length of stay, the youth are not in the center long enough to register, obtain, and work on the course materials,” said Madlynn Ruble, deputy director of communications for the Colorado Department of Human Services.
Kathryn Starkey, an adult learning specialist with the division of extended studies at CSU Pueblo who oversees the program said 18 students statewide have signed up so far.
“We worked for a year and a half to figure out how to offer flexible college classes to the youth center students, and how to make it as seamless and easy as possible to help students get the classes,” Starkey said. “Even with COVID it has gone very well.”
Students receive packets in the mail which include all the course materials they need. As they work on the classes at their own pace, the youth center facility staff help with administering exams and offering support.
“It’s been really great and we are getting good feedback from the students. So far, the most popular class is general psychology and right up there is principles of management,” Starkey said.
Other popular classes are the basic English 101 and college algebra courses which help students “get their general education out of the way and get an important leg up so they can fulfill their goals,” she added.
Other classes include art, economics, political science and sociology.
“Whether they want to get a four-year degree, a vocational or technical certification, or an associates degree, they are learning study skills, bolstering their reading comprehension and developing their note-taking skills. Those are all skills that will help no matter what they choose to pursue,” Starkey said.
So far, students have a “pretty good track record for completion,” of the courses while at the youth facilities, Starkey said. “However, they can still reach out to the college for help once they return home and there is “a support system in place so they can finish on time.”
Youth that are participating in the coursework are committed to the youth centers for an average of just more than a year of time in residential placement, Ruble said.
Many of the formerly incarcerated youth struggle to transition back into community schools and face credit transfer hurdles. This delays progress toward degree completion or even deters youth from re-enrolling.
While Starkey said she hopes the students decided to continue their educations through CSU Pueblo, state staff have worked on transfer agreements so the course credits will easily transfer among college institutions in the state.
“We would be very grateful if they want to continue with CSU Pueblo. But regardless, we are helping them get a head start and we are grateful for that,” Starkey said.
Dean of Extended Studies Kristyn White Davis said the commitment of CSU Pueblo to provide accessibility to education the partnership provides a unique way to accomplish the university’s vision.
“It is very exciting to see such an immediate benefit to this partnership,” said White Davis. “We’re glad to see concurrent enrollment as a valuable opportunity for incarcerated youth so that a college degree is attainable.”
College courses also have been offered for quite some time at the Youth Offender System facility in Pueblo which is overseen by the Colorado Department of Corrections, said spokesperson Annie Skinner.
That facility is home to younger offenders ages 18 to 25 who are sentenced to prison by the court and it also is home to younger juveniles who have been sentenced as adults, Skinner said.
Chieftain reporter Tracy Harmon covers business and Fremont County news. She can be reached by email at email@example.com or via Twitter at twitter.com/tracywumps.