STRONG FOUNDATION: Second Chance For Inmates

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It's important for all of us to have the right skills to land a great job.  However, for one group finding a job goes hand in hand with turning their lives around.

It takes time, dedication, and patience, to learn a craft.

“It is very helpful, you can put this on your resume,” says student Sheek Pearson.

Pearson is among a dozen students taking part in the deconstruction program offered by Iowa Central Community College.

“You can put the deconstruction on your resume, heavy machinery, hand power tools, so on and so forth,” says Pearson.

Students gain the ability to turn eyesores into beautiful pieces of furniture. Plus, at the same time they're saving the materials from the landfill.

“Anybody who goes through this, they get the experience of taking a building down, we`re salvaging lumber, so they see the value in it.  They get the skills to build furniture, and then they get to take something home with them too so there are a lot of benefits to it,” says Instructor Dan Oswald.

Oswald starting teaching the class last year and says his students keep him coming back.

“It's definitely rewarding, it's fun,” says Oswald.

Students like Pearson and Michael Cooper who are both serving time at the North Central Correctional Facility.  Inmates nearing the end of their sentence can apply to take part in the class, it's so popular there are 50 inmates on a waiting list just to get in.

“It's a good deal and it's also learning a trade and skill,” says Pearson.

“What they`re doing is preparing offenders to be prepared for an opportunity that is up ahead, and it`s definitely a blessing,” says student Michael Cooper.

That opportunity comes soon for Cooper, who plans to capitalize off what he's learned.

“It will definitely help me from coming back this way again,” says Cooper.

Their new skills can lead to a job, a paycheck, and most importantly the confidence that they can succeed on the outside.

“I built it, the ownership behind it, the time that I put into it, the building that I tore down to get the wood, all that plays a part, and I was excited about it,” says Cooper.

That pride of accomplishment is something many of these inmates haven't experienced before coming to prison and it will stick with them long after they're released.

“It`s defiantly been a blessing to me, and I appreciate all the individuals who went into making it come to pass,” says Cooper.

“It`s fun seeing these guys come in and not know much about it and then figuring out they can do it,” says Oswald.

So while this may look like a typical workshop, it's really much more, it's helping these men build a strong foundation for their future.

The program is also good for taxpayers, because the inmates tear down all the old buildings for free which saves the city money. So far about 90 inmates have graduated from the program.

The deconstruction class also offers a separate class that's open to the public through Iowa Workforce Development with the same goals.

More information on the program is available on the Iowa Central website.