four students with teachers on screen in classroom

The Westchester County Department of Correction (WCDOC) joined with key educational stakeholders to formally recognize six students who successfully completed a new interdisciplinary college program that was developed and introduced during the Coronavirus Pandemic.

County Executive George Latimer said: “Under Commissioner Spano, the WCDOC facility has expanded its educational offerings in a real effort to reach every single resident that finds themselves there. This work, both by the jail staff and the residents who work hard to better themselves, must and will be commended. To use this moment to advance their education shows a real commitment by these six students and I am proud we are able to afford them the opportunity.”

The new educational initiative is a six-week interdisciplinary college seminar where professors from St. John University, New York University, Manhattanville College and the Petey Greene tutoring program met with WCDOC students virtually on a weekly basis.  The seminars consisted of reading articles and discussing different topics about COVID-19 as related to vaccination, viruses, community health, racial disparities and the impact of COVID-19 at an individual and community level. Drawing on themes from the 2011 film Contagion and evidence from several academic fields, this series promotes the power of interdisciplinary thinking when confronting complexity and fear.

WCDOC Commissioner Joseph Spano said: “Under County Executive Latimer and in conjunction with our partners, we have turned the WCDOC into a model for other facilities around the Country. Our residents are afforded every opportunity to better themselves in a myriad of ways and we are immensely proud of their accomplishments.”

St. John University professor Dr. Judith Ryder said: “Thank you to the Westchester County Department of Correction for partnering with our faculty collaborative representing Manhattanville College, New York University, the Petey Greene Program, and St. John¹s University.  The commitment to educational programming within the facility enabled a virtual, college-level seminar at a time when many programs were closing down.  For six weeks, students grappled with the science of viruses and vaccines and the health and racial disparities that the coronavirus has revealed. They were a great group of men who fully engaged with the readings, writing exercises, and classroom discussions.  This interdisciplinary seminar was a very positive experience for all of us and we look forward to working with the Department of Correction on future projects.”

Westchester County Department of Correction First Deputy Commissioner Nory Padilla said: “Our partnership with professors from St. Johns University, New York University, the Petey Greene Program and Manhattanville College, is an important part of our ongoing efforts to initiate behavioral change, step by step through an array of programs and services offered at WCDOC. Our primary goal is to help our residents successfully transition back to the community. This goal is best achieved by supporting initiatives such as this six week interdisciplinary college seminar. We are helping our residents empower their lives with education and information.”

The six students completing this seminar are also participating in other onsite college programs. WCDOC is currently planning to offer the seminar again starting on April 17, 2021.