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Five receive Excellence in Education Award

Cerro Coso’s Coyote Corner

Five CCCC employees received the 2019/2020 CCCC Excellence in Education Award for their outstanding work in leading college efforts in serving underrepresented populations and ensuring our educational environment is safe for all. The recipients are Lisa Couch and the champions of the Incarcerated Student Education Program (ISEP) Lisa Stephens, Alec Griffin, Peter Fulks and Nicole Griffin.

Lisa Couch, Vice President of Finance and Administrative Services at the college, was recognized for her work during and after the earthquakes at the Ridgecrest Campus. Mrs. Couch served as the main point of contact in communicating the level of damage to college facilities. She coordinated tours and inspections with local, county and state officials. Her level of detailed accounting and records were recognized by the Kern Community College District Board of Trustees and the California Community College Chancellor's office.

"The coordination of all the inspections to assess the damages to our facilities and tracking the repairs that were needed to reopen the buildings, allowed students to return to classes and employees to return to work. Her diligence on this will provide reimbursement from state and federal agencies. During all of this work, Lisa's primary goal was the safety of the students, staff and faculty of Cerro Coso. Without Lisa's leadership and project management skills displaying the required attention to detail the college would have struggled to start classes on schedule last fall," said CCCC President Jill Board.

Lisa Stephens, East Kern Director; Nicole Griffin, Program Manager for Dual Enrollment and Prison Education; Peter Fulks, Assoc. Professor of Administration of Justice; and Alec Griffin, Professor of Anthropology/Sociology received the award for championing the Incarcerated Student Education Program (ISEP) at the college, which has earned state and national attention.

The prison program at CCCC began in the fall of 2015 with 18 students in one section of Counseling C101 at the California City Correctional Facility and has since grown to serve over 750 students per semester in more than 75 sections at both the California City and Tehachapi prisons. In Tehachapi, classes are offered in four yards providing students the opportunity to complete coursework in their choice of up to five associate degrees. The program is poised to grow again in 2020-21 by an additional 25% in part by adding an additional degree option.

More impressive than the program's growth has been its results. In 2019, incarcerated students completed classes at an 86.6% success rate, almost twelve percentage points higher than the 74.7% average for non-incarcerated students. African-Americans succeeded at a rate more than thirty percentage points higher than non-incarcerated African-American students 87.4% to 54.0%. The prison numbers shed a light on true equity: whether by age or ethnicity, all demographic groups were tightly clustered in achievement rates.

In addition, the program saw the introduction of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society at both facilities, with an immediate large number of inductees in good standing. A peer mentor program has been developed and a number of students have even been recognized as National Latin Exam awardees. Over the past two years, more than 40 students have earned their associate degrees in the two facilities. "For lives that have been restricted for years by justice-involved horizons, the prison program has been nothing short of inspirational," said Board. As one of the Tehachapi graduates said, "It's the beginning of a new life and it's probably got to be my biggest accomplishment so far."

Both Alec Griffin and Peter Fulks received the 2019 California Academic Senate Regina Stanback-Stoud Diversity Award for their work with the ISEP; and the McSilver Institute of NYU has collaborated with the program to engage in a multi-year study on Trauma-Informed Teaching Practices.

"Please join me in congratulating these employees on receiving this prestigious award," concluded Board.