Women's Community Correctional Center sign

Seven dedicated women at the Women’s Community Correctional Center (WCCC) were awarded Psycho-Social Development Academic Subject Certificates on May 25, after each completed 27 credit hours of college studies through the Puʻuhonua program at Windward Community College.

The rigorous, demanding classes included psychology, sociology, community health worker and introduction to college. The certificate will allow them to pursue careers in counseling, drug treatment, community health services and related fields.

“The academic attainment of these seven women represents not just the fulfillment of their dreams through perseverance and hard work, but the amplification of dreams for their children and relatives, and hope for their communities,” said Windward CC Chancellor Ardis Eschenberg.

Windward CC offers free college courses for credit to incarcerated women through the Puʻuhonua program. “Puʻuhonua: Places of Sanctuary,” is a five-year U.S. Department of Education Title III Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions grant, which ends this year. The project provides credit-bearing college coursework at the WCCC, Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility, as well as Olomana School. Eschenberg serves as project director and wrote the grant with Sylvia Carter, adult education specialist for the Hawaiʻi Department of Education.

“This is nearly halfway to an associate’s degree and is an accomplishment the women can be extremely proud of,” said Roger Tansley, acting education supervisor at WCCC. “These women showed great ‘stick-to-itiveness’ throughout the COVID situation and were able to complete the certificate via distance learning and correspondence.”

Thanks to the dedicated instructors, Windward CC administration, Puʻuhonua program staff, Warden Eric Tanaka, WCCC education center and staff, the program survived and thrived during the COVID-19 health crisis.

“It is our hope to expand this program to provide for a greater number of Hawaiʻi’s incarcerated population, providing qualifications for future employment, recognizing intelligence and resilience, and honoring growth and hard work. We are thankful for the partnership with WCCC and the Department of Public Safety,” said Eschenberg.

For more information about the Puʻuhonua program, contact Puʻuhonua Counselor Ashley-Michelle Day at ashley.day@hawaii.edu.