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UTD student works to bring tutoring to Denton County inmates

UTD student works to bring tutoring to Denton County inmates

UTD student works to bring tutoring to Denton County inmates
February 06
10:00 2020

Ajay Dave, a student at the University of Texas at Dallas and a Southlake resident, is working to bring holistic education to local inmates by gathering a group of students willing to tutor Denton County inmates.

The Denton County Sheriff’s Office does not currently have a tutoring program for its inmates and Dave believes the diverse talents of both UNT and TWU students would be beneficial for people currently facing incarceration.

Dave said he was inspired to give back because he believes in what the opportunity to get an education — or lack thereof— can do for people, especially those who are disenfranchised.

“It helps get you there faster,” Dave said, speaking of educational equity. “It puts you on a level-playing field.”

Dave’s grandfather was denied the opportunity to finish medical school because of his involvement in protests during India’s fight for independence. Though he never met his grandfather, Dave said knowing his experience helped instill values of equity and service.

The tutors would help the inmates prepare to take the GED, which according to Claude “Strike” Franklin, the education coordinator for the Denton County Sheriff’s Office, is the most popular subject in which inmates express interest in learning.

Franklin is currently working with Dave to set up the program. Franklin said though many say they want to work towards earning their GED, fewer follow through with requesting and using the study materials.

“For those that are willing to work, it’d be a good chance to do something positive while in jail,” Franklin said.

Eddie Rucker, Denton County Sheriff’s Office chaplain, agrees that the tutoring program could make a positive impact.

“A lot of them have street smarts,” Rucker said. “They’re very knowledgeable. We want to work on getting them booksmart.”

Rucker has also been working with Dave to implement the program.

“We don’t get to see the finished product,” Rucker said about the rehabilitation success of people who were formerly incarcerated.

Rucker said they only get a true update when someone comes back with another offense.

“Many fall into the same cycle, doing the same things,” he said.

Because of this, Rucker believes the tutoring program will better equip inmates with tools they can use when they leave jail. For Dave, these tools include more than just GED knowledge. Dave said he wants the program to contribute to the wellness of the whole person.

Along with tutors who can help with academic subjects, Dave would also like to recruit students who are willing to share their creative skills, like music and writing in what he called a tough environment.

Dave also hopes to recruit students willing to share their knowledge in computer science and climate research.

“I think it’s important that they get familiar with tech, especially coding and digital design,” Dave said.

Dave believes with these knowledge bases, former inmates will be more competitive in the job market, which will help reduce the rate of recidivism – the likelihood of returning to jail once released. The number of people who return to jail is on the decline nationwide, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center study.

As volunteers, students must undergo an application and training process, which includes a background check. The process is meant to ensure the safety of both students and inmates and to inform students about how systems operate inside of the jail.

Dave also hopes to implement a matching system, so that inmates and student tutors are comfortable with each other and can be effective during sessions.

“It’s about establishing relationships,” Dave said.

UNT interdisciplinary studies senior Jayla Tucker also believes a positive relationship between tutor and pupil will be a source of encouragement.

“Maybe being tutored by students will inspire [the inmates] to also see what they can achieve,” Tucker said.

Dave is also working on implementing similar programs in Collin and Dallas counties, but is especially optimistic about Denton because of the proximity of UNT and TWU students to the Denton County Jail.

Franklin also expressed optimism about working with Dave and being able to better serve those who want it.

“[They may have made] bad decisions, but getting the chance to do something positive can put them on the right track,” Franklin said.

Students interested in volunteering as a tutor should contact Ajay Dave at ajay.dave.35@gmail.com.

Featured Illustration: Miranda Thomas

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Shardae White

Shardae White

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1 Comment

  1. HKT
    HKT February 10, 15:37

    I am very impressed by the thought itself. Mr. Dave is working for a noble cause. I congratulate and wish him true success in this project.

    Reply to this comment

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