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The landmark Community College of Philadelphia's campus north of Center City is soon to be a laboratory for a law enforcement experiment.

December
Wed 16

Contact: Linda Wallace, 215-751-8082, liswallace@ccp.edu
Annette John-Hall, 215-751-8021, anhall@ccp.edu

Pilot offering education, life skill supports, employment and expungement is the first of its kind in the nation

PHILADELPHIA (Dec. 7, 2015) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams today launched a new pre-trial felony diversion pilot program called Future Forward to provide individuals who have been charged with a non-violent felony crime an alternative to incarceration. The program, which is the first of its kind in the nation and the creation of the District Attorney himself, is designed to increase access to educational opportunities and reduce recidivism.

“There have been lots of calls for prosecutors to give people who have been charged with a non-violent crime more alternatives to incarceration and more paths for defendants to expunge their record. Today, we’re announcing another way for that to happen,” said Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams. “We all know that crime goes up when people can’t gain access to the classroom, so we’re going to break that cycle by giving more of our city’s young men and women the opportunity to start fresh and reap the benefits that come from a post-secondary education, new life skills and a clean record for themselves and their families.”

During the year long program, enrollees will earn a minimum of 24 credits at Community College of Philadelphia; complete life skills classes and engage in a student support group. Throughout the program, participants will also be assigned a case manager and have their progress monitored during regular status hearings before the Honorable Sheila Woods-Skipper. If they remain arrest free for one year after completing Future Forward, they will also have their record expunged.

The pilot program is a partnership between the District Attorney’s Office (DAO) and the College and their Reentry Support Project of the Fox Rothschild Center for Law and Society (RSP) with the support of the First Judicial District, the Defenders Association of Philadelphia, and Brown’s ShopRite.

Eligible candidates must be 24-years of age, earned a high school degree or equivalent GED, be charged with a non-violent offense, have no more than one prior non-violent misdemeanor, and no violent offences on their record. They cannot have any outstanding warrants, must meet the College’s admission requirements, be eligible for federal financial aid, and attend the required classes and workshops.

“Community College of Philadelphia is a hub that transports tens of thousands of Philadelphians to a prospering future,” said Dr. Donald Guy Generals, President of the College. “Future Forward provides both access to opportunity and timely supports to Philadelphians who have slipped in life but are willing

to work toward their life goals. Instead of facing a trial and possible conviction, this program provides the opportunity for college credits and the possibility of a future which includes a college degree.”

“Our ShopRite stores are excited to partner with Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams on his new Future Forward initiative. We have committed to hiring local community members from the inception of our business, including those who have made mistakes in the past. We believe that giving people the opportunity to advance their education and secure a career opportunity, is a life-changing option,” stated Jeff Brown. “We look forward to supporting this program and working with the participants to become successful members of our ShopRite Supermarket team and to ultimately realize a brighter future for themselves and the future of Philadelphia.”

“I would like to thank the Community College of Philadelphia and all of our partners for helping us make today a reality, and to all of the men and women of the District Attorney’s Office and at the College who are excited as I am to get this pilot program fully up and running, let’s get to work,” added Williams.

Participation in Future Forward is voluntary for those who meet all eligibility requirements. Tuition, textbooks, supplies and college fees associated with the program will be covered by federal student aid in the form of a Pell Grant for as long as each participant meets the eligibility requirements.

 

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Community College of Philadelphia has served more than 685,000 students. It currently enrolls more than 34,000 credit and non-credit students. The College offers day, evening and weekend classes, as well as classes online. Visit the College at www.ccp.edu. Follow us on Twitter. Like us on Facebook.

Students gather for a lecture at the Barnes Foundation for Art 101, an accelerated course offered via a partnership between the College and the Foundation. This collaboration allows students to use one of the world's finest collections of Post-Impressionist and Early Modern paintings as their textbooks.

Yesterday, Carmen was a guest speaker at Community College of Philadelphia’s Fall Pathways Magazine Breakfast, which brought Starbucks, YouthBuild and the College together to talk about the universal issue that all big cities face: how to put youth, disconnected from work and school, onto a pathway to employment opportunity.

While working toward her diploma, Williams took college-level classes at the Community College of Philadelphia and served as prom queen and salutatorian of her graduating class.

But Williams eventually found encouragement and guidance at YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School, an alternative education program that steered her toward employment at Starbucks and enrollment at the Community College of Philadelphia. She now is on her way to a career in social work.

"I already know what it's like to be homeless, hungry, and abused," said Carmen Williams, 22, weeping Wednesday as she spoke at a breakfast meeting of educators and business people at Community College of Philadelphia.

January
Wed 13

Carmen Williams was on the road to nowhere.

Left at a friend’s home by her mother as a child, Carmen endured myriad foster homes, including a household crawling with 30 unneutered cats. One day, she came home to discover the cats had soiled all of her high school uniforms. When she asked for $5 to get them washed, she said her foster parent refused to help.

So, she dropped out of school—not because she didn’t want to learn—but because she had nothing to wear. That’s how precarious life can be for youth like Carmen.

But today, the 22-year-old student’s uniform of choice belongs to Starbucks, where she works as a barista in the heart of the city’s business district. Her life has been fortified by a student support system that includes Starbucks, Community College of Philadelphia and YouthBuild Philadelphia, an alternative charter school that provides life skills, coping skills and a chance for older students to earn their diplomas and a career skill.

Yesterday, Carmen was a guest speaker at Community College of Philadelphia’s Fall Pathways Magazine Breakfast, which brought Starbucks, YouthBuild and the College together to talk about the universal issue that all big cities face: how to put youth, disconnected from work and school, onto a pathway to employment opportunity.

Carmen’s story put a face on the disconnected youth in America who far too often are invisible in urban centers. Audience members were moved to tears as they watched a video chronicling her amazing life’s journey—one that has taken her from dropout and exotic dancer to her high school’s salutatorian, prom queen and Starbucks barista.

In Philadelphia, one out of four young people between the ages of 18 and 24 are unemployed and out of school. “Opportunity Youth represent a huge, untapped opportunity for an infusion of productivity and creativity in the workforce,” said Starbucks District Manager Michael Scott, who said the company has hired about 50 Opportunity Youth from the Philadelphia region in the past two years. “We cannot drive performance sustainably if this group of young people is not engaged. They represent our future workforce as well as our future customers.”

In Philadelphia, Starbucks is partnering with a number of nonprofits that serve this population, including YouthBuild. “I found YouthBuild when I was 16 years old,” Carmen explained. “I was introduced to the sex industry to support myself... one of my coworkers who was also a dancer told me about this school she went to and how they cared about her so much.”

With the job market tightening and the U.S. unemployment rate recently teetering at just over 5 percent, the value attached to the Opportunity Youth pipeline is increasing as the strategy allows businesses to transform the lives of families and boost their own fortunes by providing opportunity—rather than handouts—to those in need.

In the United States alone, there are 3.5 million unfilled jobs. Jobs that do not require a four-year degree—sometimes called middle-skill jobs—make up the largest part of the labor market. This year, a coalition of business leaders launched the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, which promotes the gospel of opportunity hiring and is working to create more flexible hiring systems that can overcome unconscious barriers to candidates that might have unusual life circumstances such as homelessness.

Major employers, including Starbucks, Target and CVS, have created the first large-scale employer-based effort to engage disconnected youth in the labor market by making investments in their potential through education, training and work experience in an effort to raise their level of employability. These U.S.-based companies have committed to hire at least 100,000 “Opportunity Youth” by 2018.

The Starbucks regional district, including Philadelphia and portions of the Mid-Atlantic, is a constant hub of activity as district managers form new alliances with nonprofits in an effort to fill the opportunity pipeline. It recently expanded its partnership with YouthBuild Philadelphia to include a program that prepares students for careers in retail and customer service by providing classroom and on-the-job training in a café setting, based on a similar training approach that Starbucks baristas receive in stores around the world.

Carmen, who recently gave birth, has her sights set on earning a degree from Community College of Philadelphia. Already, she has put lessons learned in a Psychology class to use behind the counter as she connects with customers. In just a few years, she replaced hurdles with hope, and found a purpose: sharing her new direction in an effort to prove that in every Philadelphia neighborhood, a better future is within reach.

At work, Carmen has been promoted once already, to barista trainer. She is working with her store manager on a plan for additional professional development.

“Where I see myself in the future?” she said, repeating the question. “I can’t even picture it right now. With the people I have now that love me and support me and care about me and motivate me and push me, when I can’t push myself, I might be the President.”

As she stood in front of the audience yesterday, however, her thoughts drifted to the friends she has who have not yet found their path—they want to work, want a better life but have not yet found people to support them, as she has.

“I wish you could meet the people I know,” she said. “As much as you love me and love my story, you can believe in and invest in other people who come from where I come from as well.”

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