Campus and Community

Students Manage Special Reading Program for Incarcerated Youth

John KellySeveral students of John Kelly’s Introduction to Special Populations classes (PED: 3301) have been conducting a special Reading Program for the incarcerated youth detained in the Harris County Juvenile Detention Center.

The reading program, specifically developed by Colin Dalton, Ph.D., literacy professor of Urban Education, was designed for the difficult learning environment in the detention center. Each of Kelly’s three Special Populations classes in conjunction with the Excel Academy have been volunteering at the detention center for the past four years and have the distinction of being designated High Impact Service Learning Courses.

“The joint venture with the UHD and Excel Academy-JJC campus who comprised the literacy program was a unique blend of culture exchange and multi-level learning,” said Oliver Burbridge, principle of the Excel Academy. “We are looking forward to our next collaborative instructional program with UHD’s urban education department.”

A few participating students also shared their experiences and insight.

Erica Acuna Villanuena:  “Working on this literacy project and getting to know and understand the kids at the Juvenile Detention Center was a life changing experience. I am thankful for this opportunity and happy that I was able to be part of it.”

Oscar De La Torre: “A unique experience in which you get to take a close look at children in the juvenile detention center and see how they are as individuals.”

Alan Zuniga: “The students at the center have helped me keep alive the desire that lives within me, that same passion that made me want to be a teacher, that same hunger for social justice, and the conviction to change the world through education.”

The Excel Academy is a charter school that is charged with providing youth with an education while incarcerated in Harris County Juvenile Detention Center.

In more news, 15 UHD pre-service teachers did outstanding service work this fall in the Juvenile Detention Center, which exemplifies the goals of UHD’s QEP: Academic Achievement through Community Engagement.

They entered one of the most hostile environments for learning and met the teaching challenge – successfully teaching a new reading program to 40 incarcerated youth from 10 to 17 years old.

“The positive impact on the reading skills of youth at risk and its activist influence on pre-service teachers will lead to three additional reading centers in the Harris County Juvenile Detention System,” said Kelly. “In addition, the promising research on effective teacher preparation programs will be presented at two International Conferences in Europe.”

The Introduction to Special Populations is instructed by John Kelly, Ph.D., a special education professor in Urban Education. Moreover, the High Impact Service Learning Project was designed and managed by Kelly.