Education Program


Quarterly Newsletter

Fall 2011 Issue



In 2005, I met a 46-year-old man, Kevin, who had been coming in and out of prison since the year the Department of Corrections was created in 1982. He was addicted and mentally ill, but so intelligent it broke my heart. A week later, I wrote to the Director of the University of Washington's Law, Societies & Justice Program describing Kevin, asking if he would, under the heading of "saving lives," support a program that would help genuinely motivated former prisoners enter college. During the next week, three key people responded to me with a resoundingly supportive "Yes," and the Post-Prison Education Program was conceived. 
I once wrote to a close friend that if I could live to see the day when just one former prisoner walked across the stage at her or his graduation G-d could take me, and I would be happy to go. That first graduate was Becky Heffling, a married mother of four who earned her Registered Nurse (RN) license through Washington State University. Since then, we have helped well over 110 former prisoners become students. In each instance, we have learned that with almost every prisoner there is a truly sad story that mainstream media never reports, and that if society will give former prisoners hope and opportunity, almost invariably they will seize it - and move on to reunite with their families, to build lives worth living, and to give back to their communities in ways that we have had the privilege of witnessing time and time again.

Ari Kohn at the Post-Prison Education Program


What do we as members of Washington's society owe to someone who was born addicted to heroin, who is seriously mentally ill, who was homeless at an early age, who was led into addiction by their parents, or who was born into inter-generational poverty and imprisonment?  I believe we owe them at least the one chance they were most often never given in early life, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that when we respond to great need our own rewards are great.


For those of you who joined with us long ago, thank you. For everyone else, on behalf of the hundreds and hundreds of applicants who are begging for assistance, our Board of Directors, staff, volunteers, and students, I ask that you take the time to examine our Mission, meet our students, and join with us to deliver safer communities and lives that truly are worth living.


Very truly yours,

Ari Signature 


Featured Student: Shelly Klier

Shelly Klier

Shelly and her newborn daughter in their home in Tacoma


When asked to describe Shelly's transformation, her husband smiles and says, "From meth cook to Supermom." Shelly grew up with eight other siblings.  Her mother was addicted to heroin and Shelly did not receive the care she needed and deserved as a young child.


Shelly was always smart and received good grades in school but she was a "problem child" in every other sense of the word. She continuously got into trouble in school, was expelled from three school districts, and bounced around from family member to family member. It is no surprise that by age 11 Shelly was using drugs, and at age 12 she was sent to do time in the Juvenile Youth Authority in California. She was lost because she was not provided with the support structure and guidance a child needs in order to be successful.

Sadly, Shelly served two more prison sentences before she was ready to make changes.  When reflecting back, she remembers making promises to everyone but herself. She now understands that "you don't make promises, especially not to children . . . instead, you show them by doing and by being there."

When Shelly was released from prison for the last time, she regained custody of her three children. She says that she will be forever grateful to the Post-Prison Education Program for helping her fight and win an out-of-state custody battle after which she was reunited with her youngest son, Steven (age 3).
Shelly's Family

Shelly, her husband Jeffrey, and their three boys, Jimmy (14), Dustin (10), and Steven (3) 


When visiting Shelly's home one can immediately feel the love that surrounds her family: she lives in Tacoma with her three boys, ages 3, 10, and 14, her husband, and their new baby girl. They have worked very hard to build a home, and Shelly's children show obvious pride in the accomplishments their mother has made and continues to make every day.

Not only is Shelly a "supermom" but she is also a superwoman. She is one of two women currently in the Welding Program at Bates Technical College, from which she will be graduating this February with both an Associate of Arts degree as well as her certificates in stick and wire welding.

Shelly's oldest son, Jimmy (age 14), is an A student and is now helping his mother with her coursework. "Jimmy is going to end up helping me when I need assistance on math," Shelly laughs, "because he scored the highest statewide in both math and English."

Shelly's Children

Dustin, Jimmy, and Steven

 When asked about her transition process, Shelly responds, "the most important lesson I have learned throughout all the hardships is that I must stop thinking like an addict, needing instant gratification all of the time, and instead learn to maintain the balance between patience and persistence." It is this balance that has led Shelly to become an incredible success, a loving mother, an integral part of her family, and a straight A student.  


Community News: UW Honors Partnership

Dolphy and Dennis

Dolphy Jordan (left) and Dennis McDonald (right) showcasing Husky Pride


The Post-Prison Education Program is delighted to announce a new collaborative project with the University of Washington's Honors program. PPEP and UW Honors students will work together on a variety of outreach and service projects during Winter Quarter 2012 in a new course called "In Your Name: A Service-Learning Experience in Seattle's Criminal Justice System." The course will offer a series of lectures on social justice issues featuring speakers from the UW faculty and from members of Seattle's legal and law enforcement communities and, most important, will involve the two groups of students in creative collaborative outreach efforts.


"I had my first experience with the UW Honors students at the same time that I started volunteering at PPEP," says Dr. Claudia Jensen, who is coordinating the class. "I was struck with how similar these two different groups of students really are-they are all serious about their education and eager to participate in as many learning experiences as possible. It seemed like a perfect match and I'm delighted to create an opportunity in which they can work together and learn from each other."


The UW is eager to provide this opportunity. Dr. Julie Villegas, Associate Director of the UW Honors program, says that this sort of collaboration is at the heart of their program. "We at Honors take learning outside of the classroom, giving students opportunities to connect their UW education to the larger world." But, she adds, "we also bring this learning back to the UW. It is our hope that this partnership will establish a third community, a community of care that deepens both the UW students' and the Post-Prison students' awareness of their own agency to create change for themselves both in the classroom and outside in the greater community."


The course will also benefit from the help of the UW's Carlson Leadership and Public Service Center, which was established to help develop and support this kind of community-based participatory engagement, allowing students to think beyond the immediacy of class schedules and grades and to engage critically with issues facing society. Rachel Vaughn, the Center's Associate Director, has been an enthusiastic supporter as well. "The work at PPEP is inspiring," she says, "and I'm glad to have the opportunity to connect our students to this amazing community."


Dolphy Jordan, a PPEP staff member who will be enrolling in the new course, summarizes the enthusiasm of everyone involved in the project. "I'm so excited to be able to collaborate with such awesome people!" he says. "This is really going to change people's lives." 



Student Accomplishments

Lujano art

Art by PPEP student David R. Lujano


Christopher Jones, a Post-Prison Education Program graduate and a current Board Member, was invited to Penn State this past summer to participate in an electrical engineering internship funded by the National Science Foundation. The results of his work appear in the article he co-authored, "Considerations for an Intra-solar System Laser Satellite Data Network." The article appears in the Annual Research Journal for Electrical Engineering Research Experience for Undergraduates, August 2011.

Chris showing his published research article, "Considerations for an Intra-solar System Laser Satellite Data Network"




Vance Bartley

Vance Bartley, a graduate of the Post-Prison Education Program and former member of our Board, celebrated two years of being clean and sober on August 22, 2011. He currently works for two law firms as a legal researcher and started a non-profit to help children of incarcerated parents receive gifts for the holidays.


Dennis and Deandra

Dennis and Deandra



Dennis McDonald is an avid reader who has inspired many prisoners to use literature as a tool to further their education while incarcerated. Dennis married Deandra on May 8, 2011.



Dennis and Herbee

Dennis and Herbee







While driving through California on their honeymoon, Dennis and Deandra rescued their new dog, Herbee.



Emile Pitre

Emile Pitre

Our Board and Staff


Dear Friends:

I am Emile Pitre, Associate Vice President for Assessment in the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity at University of Washington (UW)-Seattle. It is an honor and a privilege to be one of the founding directors and to serve as the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Post-Prison Education Program.

The Mission of the Post-Prison Education Program fits perfectly with what I believe is my life's calling: Serving the most at-risk and underrepresented and underserved citizens in our society. Since arriving at the University of Washington in 1967, I have been unwavering in my involvement in social justice issues, beginning with the founding of the Black Student Union and the longitudinal development of the double-award winning Instructional Center at UW.

My involvement began as a student participating in the takeover of President Odegaard's office on May 20, 1968, which subsequently and directly led to the formation of the Office of Minority Affairs (OMA) in 1970.  It is interesting to note that the OMA administrators (through its Resident Release Project) felt strongly that college should be an option for former and current prisoners. Similarly, the Post-Prison Education Program helps the most disadvantaged students gain access to post-secondary education, provides critical and timely support, and inspires them to become leaders and agents for social change.

Thank you for supporting the Post-Prison Education Program.




Emile signature 

In This Issue
Featured Student
Community News
Student Accomplishments
Our Board and Staff

$55-Cell Phone

$80-Bus Pass





Upcoming Events

Inequality in the Age of Mass Incarceration Harvard Professor Bruce Western


October 13th

Seattle Town Hall 

7:30 PM



Check it out on Facebook!

 Punishment and Inequality in America

Like us on Facebook

Interested in Volunteering?

Contact us at

Join Our Mailing List!