Second Chance Initiative issues 17 degrees to Sampson Correctional graduates

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Seventeen men incarcerated at Sampson Correctional Institution received degrees through Campbell University via its Second Chance Initiative on Nov. 2 at Scotland Correctional in Laurinburg.

The graduates have lived out Campbell’s motto of ad astra per aspera — “to the stars through difficulties” — through their successful multi-year journey to degrees. They conquered the rigors of a strenuous curriculum while living in a challenging environment; many also endured the struggles presented by COVID.

“I’m incredibly proud of what these men have accomplished over the past few years,” said Kelly Morin, assistant dean for the Second Chance Initiative. “They’ve faced many challenges and barriers, but have remained steadfast in their pursuit of a degree.”

The graduating group included:

Associate of Science:

  • Navidad Aguirre
  • Mark Anthony Denning
  • Joshual J. Duncan
  • Michael L. Goff
  • Dylan Michael Hulin
  • Brandon Jawon Pompey (commencement speaker)
  • Jared Russell
  • Adam D. Sauls
  • Roderick Lamonte Wilborn

Bachelor of Science:

  • Jamel Byrd
  • Kawamie Shonta Cole
  • Wesley Robert Isaac Lee (commencement speaker)
  • Chenault Moore
  • Rayvon Sampson
  • Jalani Lamar Smith
  • Sean Underhill
  • Timothy B. White, Jr.

In 2018, the Bob Barker Company Foundation (BBCF) reached out to both Campbell University and the North Carolina Department of Adult Correction (NCDAC) to partner in developing a higher education program in North Carolina aimed at providing degrees for currently incarcerated offenders that would provide employment and a liberal arts education to prepare them for long-term careers.

NCDAC selected Sampson Correctional Institution, an adult male medium and minimum custody facility, as the site for the Campbell University Associate of Science in Behavioral Sciences degree program. Since then, the program has expanded to offer a Bachelor of Science in Communication Studies with a minor in addiction studies for students who wish to continue their education at Sampson Correctional.

Ten students began the BS degree in August 2021, and a new cohort of 15 began the AS degree. After two years of intensive study, the rigorous standard of the Campbell program and the behavioral requirements of the prison, 17 students received degrees.

“I’ve witnessed a great deal of mental, emotional, and social growth from this group along the way, as education is truly a transformational journey,” Morin said.

Campbell’s mission through the Second Chance Initiative is to graduate students with exemplary academic and professional skills who are prepared for purposeful lives and meaningful service. The goal is to help incarcerated or previously incarcerated students develop the skills and abilities to contribute to their communities and live upstanding lives. The program provides students with the skills and credentials needed to obtain meaningful employment upon release in areas that offer a good salary, have fewer barriers to those who are justice-involved, and where our students will have the opportunity for career advancement.

“I’m excited to continue partnering with these students as they continue their studies or prepare for a career post-release,” Morin said. “Our team (Second Chance Initiative) is constantly working to find new avenues to expand the student experience with our incarcerated population and committed to provide support as they transition into their new lives outside of prison.”

Nicole Winget, Adult & Online Education Dean, said seeing the joy and pride on the faces of the students, their families, and the Second Chance Initiative staff was “indescribable”.

“I am proud of all that Campbell does, but there is something about this program that just demonstrates us living our mission of service in an immediately visible way,” she said. “I have such great pride and excitement in what we do with the Second Chance Initiative and to see the outcome demonstrated in the graduation ceremony is energizing.”

“The ripple effects of this program are an added highlight. The inspiration and motivation this gives to other offenders, members of the NC Department of Adult Correction staff, community members, and the families of our incarcerated students is unquantifiable but of huge impact. I have been at several events this week, unconnected to our SCI programs, and people have come up to ask me about it and express their support and joy at the success. It helps show the community at large that second chances are possible and should be encouraged.”

Second Chance Initiative staff includes Morin (assistant dean), Aaron Tyner (site coordinator/advisor), Makeba Johnson (site coordinator/advisor), Juliana Mehrer (budget and program manager). The program also requires the devotion of willing Campbell professors.

Staff, professors, Campbell leadership (President Creed and Vice President John T. Roberson among several others) were on hand for the ceremony. The event also featured special guest appearances from Kristi Jones (NC Chief of Staff, Office of the Governor), State Senator Jim Burgin, State Representative Garland E. Pierce and program founder Bob Barker.