Students at the Elmwood Correctional Facility in Milpitas completed the first round of college courses offered by San Jose State University (SJSU) on Monday, December 12, 2016. Seventeen men passed the Introduction to Kinesiology course and 14 women passed the Justice Studies – Record Clearance Project: Practical Legal Skills course. Students attended class twice a week for 12 weeks, plus study hall and workshops for additional support.
The Kinesiology course introduced the men to the philosophy, history, and sociology of physical activity; sport and exercise psychology and the biomechanics and physiology of physical activity. The course covered careers in health and fitness, therapeutic exercise and teaching, coaching and sport instruction, plus sport management. In addition to course readings, students took weekly quizzes, a mid-term and final exam, plus gave a group presentation. In a resume workshop, students identified their personality characteristics and skills in preparation for seeking employment.
“Going in, I did not know what to expect. I was ecstatic to see how many of the students wanted to better themselves,” said Arman Medina, Kinesiology Lecturer at SJSU. I was impressed with how smart they all were. They all worked very hard.” Medina taught the in-custody course with the assistance of SJSU instructional student assistant, Julius Passion.
The Practical Legal Skills class prepared students to help people clear criminal convictions from their records. Beginning with reading statutes to determine legal eligibility for dismissal of convictions and reduction of felonies, students also learned and practiced legal interviewing and writing skills necessary to complete court paperwork for a client seeking expungement. Students learned to give community presentations on expungement law, and practiced course skills in hands-on workshops. Guest speakers included people who had their records cleared and a judge who spoke on courtroom protocol.
“We asked students how the class could be improved. They suggested: more homework and have class meet every day. A teacher’s dream!” said Peggy Stevenson, director of the SJSU Record Clearance Project. “I was impressed with the dedication, discipline and mutual support that the students demonstrated on a daily basis.” Stevenson co-taught the course with Nishtha Jolly, MS, with assistance from Anahi Beltran, Nina Bernardini and Zulema Pimentel-Licea.
Many of the students have considered continuing their education at community colleges and four-year universities, including master’s degree programs. Over 50 students applied for financial aid by completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form.
Thank you to the Santa Clara County Office of Reentry Services – Winter 2017 Newsletter for this article.