Grant offers support for formerly incarcerated
After serving a 48-month sentence at the Washington Corrections Center for Women, the challenges were just starting for Alyn. Finding housing. Staying sober. Getting a job. The challenges seemed overwhelming.
While a reentry class gave Alyn a list of resources in Yakima where she could find support after release, when she called organizations on the list, no one was able to help.
“They didn’t know why the reentry group put their numbers on that list,” she recalls. “I felt alone, like the world was so big but it had no room for me. That’s a scary place to be when all you want to do is stay out of prison; it almost feels like you can’t.”
Then, in the fall of 2018, Alyn started taking classes at Yakima Valley College. She chose the business pathway believing it to be the best opportunity for someone with her background. After learning about the Bachelor of Applied Science in Business Management program, Alyn knew that’s what she wanted.
“The most important thing I’ve gained from YVC is confidence,” said Alyn, who graduated this June. “I had some very encouraging teachers that walked me through everything, from my technology barrier to the material in the classroom. Little by little I started to feel like I might be good enough to do this. The BASM program has really equipped me in every way to go out and confidently work in the real world of business.”
In the coming years, more formerly incarcerated individuals like Alyn will get assistance in starting a new life thanks to a new grant from the Washington Department of Corrections. YVC joins 13 other higher education institutions participating in a program that aims to help individuals successfully re-enter society and the workforce.
“Being able to look people in the eye and be confident that I am good enough and equipped with the tools I need to work in the professional world of business has been huge for me.”
— Alyn, YVC student and formerly incarcerated
“Re-entering the workforce with a criminal background has its challenges,” said YVC Re-entry Navigator Alexander Bazan, “but with education and the supportive services offered through the Corrections Education grant at YVC, the chance of success becomes higher, creating an enhanced community for all.”
A large portion of the grant supports outreach to individuals prior to their release. That includes help selecting academic pathways, identifying financial resources, supporting retention and addressing basic needs. Individuals from any correctional institution in Washington state who have been or will be released in Yakima County are eligible for assistance.
Bazan noted that while incarcerated, some individuals may earn higher education credits. Those students can transfer their credits and continue their educational journey at YVC, Bazan said, with support from the college to help make the process easy.
“Re-entering the workforce with a criminal background has its challenges, but with education and the supportive services offered through the Corrections Education grant at YVC, the chance of success becomes higher, creating an enhanced community for all.”
— Alexander Bazan, Re-entry Navigator
Alyn currently works in customer service and enjoys working with people to identify their needs and provide support. In the future, she’d like to find a job that also allows her to help other people with justice-involved backgrounds make positive steps toward a better life.
“I’m so relieved that YVC is starting this reentry program,” Alyn said. “It’s not just YVC that needs this. Our community needs this. A program like this won’t only affect the lives of the people who participate in it, it can impact the lives of everyone in our community.”
She remembers one YVC instructor who helped her overcome unfamiliarity with technology so that she could succeed in her classes. And another who told her that he believed in her.
“YVC has helped me overcome so many challenges,” Alyn said. “Being able to look people in the eye and be confident that I am good enough and equipped with the tools I need to work in the professional world of business has been huge for me.”
Has someone you know been incarcerated in Washington state and want to retrain for a new career? Contact Alexander Bazan at 509.834.4506.