Since the beginning of 2019, Harbor Residential Reentry Center has already held 10 graduation events for reentry residents who have achieved their high school equivalency diplomas. The RRC is now on track to beat their previous record from 2018 of 17 total graduations.
Their most recent celebration hosted graduates’ families, fellow participants, local corrections officers and GEO Reentry staff to celebrate 18 reentry residents for reaching their educational goals. Of the 18 graduates, three had recently completed vocational school through the National Career Institute (NCI), while 15 recently passed the Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC) exam. TASC is a nationally recognized high school equivalency exam to prepare adults for higher education. Harbor RRC has offered the TASC exam for reentry residents since 2013 as part of the center’s overall initiative to reduce recidivism.
The theme of the graduation event was “Graduation is not the end; it is the beginning,” a sentiment introduced at the onset of the ceremony by Education and Health Centers of America Director Michael Oliver in his opening remarks. He offered encouraging words about the importance of graduations, and how this achievement can mark a new beginning for resident graduates. Oliver concluded by highlighting the important role of educational programming in reentry services in addition to Harbor RRC’s dedication to providing excellent opportunities for education and growth.
Multiple speakers took the stage to share their experience in the educational program, including Dr. Darcella Sessomes, assistant commissioner of NJ DOC-Division of Programs and Community Services, who was also the keynote speaker at a recent education celebration at the Tully House, another residential reentry center located in Newark. Sessomes delivered a moving speech about Muhammad Ali, focusing her message on the opportunity and the determination for excellence. She highlighted the different barriers Ali had faced early in his career, having to earn his rank from an amateur boxer long before becoming “the greatest.”
“Reclaim your life one round at a time,” Dr. Sessomes said. “By earning your diploma, you can achieve. I strongly urge you to keep pursuing education. The Harbor and its staff will be here to support you.”
Education and vocational training are an important service for reentry participants. Studies suggest education improves individual self-esteem and interpersonal relationships, and, most importantly, drastically reduces recidivism rates. In addition to the critical thinking skills that come with higher levels of education, those with formal education are more likely to find work when they rejoin their communities. With gainful employment and a steady income, the risk of recidivating drops significantly, and individuals are able to lead a functional, fulfilling life without crime.
Harbor RRC in Newark, New Jersey, provides evidence-based residential reentry programming for individuals referred from the New Jersey Department of Corrections. The center is operated by GEO Reentry Services through a contract with Education and Health Centers of America (EHCA), a New Jersey nonprofit group with six residential reentry facilities throughout New Jersey.
Learn more about evidence-based programming at GEO Reentry Residential Reentry Centers.