Hoping to provide academic support and resources to Detroiters impacted by the criminal justice system, Wayne State University’s Educational Transition Coordination (ETC) program will lead a campus tour Thursday, June 29, for several probationers who are part of a joint anti-recidivism initiative supported by Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit, local courts and the Michigan Department of Corrections.
Twenty adults from the Safer Communities Stronger Families program — which was developed by Goodwill’s Flip the Script project to keep those on probation out of the prison system — will join ETC Coordinator Terrell Topps for a daylong visit to the university, where they will tour classrooms, take in a mock lecture, and receive information about financial aid and college enrollment.
“Recidivism and education are directly correlated: The more education one acquires, the less people go back to prison or jails,” said Topps. “Thus, it’s important to expose men and women involved with the justice system, whether jail or prison, to education options alongside of vocational trades.”
The effort also is being supported by the Department of African American Studies and Ollie Johnson, Ph.D., its chair.
Tour participants, who range in age from 18 to 39, are part of the Cognitive Behavior Programming arm of the Safer Communities Stronger Families program, in which Flip the Script partners with the 3rd Circuit Court, 36th District Court and the Michigan Department of Corrections. The participants make up the 72nd cohort of Safer Communities Stronger Families.
Flip the Script, led by Director Gregory Anderson, a WSU alumnus, has worked for 20 years to stem the flow of Detroiters into the legal system.
The Educational Transition Coordination program was created by WSU in 2021 to expand college access for formerly incarcerated individuals. Led by Topps and Director Toycia Collins, the ETC program helps men and women recently released from prison find housing and employment as well as apply for colleges and trade schools.
“Gregory Anderson and I hope to remove the mental blinders that education does not exist of the participants,” Topps said. “We want the participants to clearly understand that there is a pathway to higher education in additional to vocational trades.”
Topps said that the group will visit admissions and financial aid offices at Wayne State to demystify the application process. The group also will meet at the Office of Multicultural Student Engagement (OMSE) to talk with OMSE director Stephanie Hawkes about the university’s “safe spaces.” In addition, participants will sit through a mock lecture and eat lunch at the Student Center Building to give them a glimpse of the college campus experience.
Erica Searcy, a recruitment and retention specialist in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences who also will escort tour participants, observed that it is important to create opportunities for students to explore campus and resources in meaningful ways.
“Students from all walks of life can be Wayne State Warriors, and it is our responsibility to help students navigate this path,” she said.
Topps noted that one major goal of the tour is to inspire participants.
“We hope the participants gain the awareness that Wayne State University has a program dedicated to assisting the justice impacted and, most importantly, the knowledge that college is an option, and they belong here,” she said.
For more information on Wayne State’s ETC program, please visit s.wayne.edu/etc.