By Alex Hampl
“It’s not often you get the mayor to come to jail.”
Sheriff Dana Lawhorne’s line drew laughs from many, including Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille today at the Alexandria Detention Center. Euille was there, as were Vice Mayor Kerry Donley and Councilman Frank Fannon for the debut of the Open Road Program, which will partner the Sheriff’s Office with Northern Virginia Community College.
NOVA will offer a course, History 295 – Topics in African American History, to approximately 15 inmates at the detention center. It is the community college’s first project involving inmates. Dean of Liberal Arts Dr. Jim McClellan will teach the course.
“If you look at the history of education in the United States, only a very few people had access to education early on,” Dr. McClellan said. “It is our goal to make sure everyone has access to higher education.”
“We will not only be providing instruction but also counseling and helping to handle the transition [from jail to community college]. It used to be that U.Va wouldn’t accept you,” McClellan continued, speaking to the inmates. “But now if you leave NOVA with a high enough grade point average, you can go from where you are today, from this room, to walking across the lawn at U.Va.”
History 295 is a sophomore-level course, which requires more reading and comprehension than most introductory courses. The class, which will last five weeks and count as a credit towards NOVA, covers slavery to the sit-in movement. McClellan said that NOVA plans to offer another class at the end of the summer and two or three classes for the fall.
Mayor Euille thanked NOVA, the detention center employees, and the Sheriff’s Office for their roles in the program’s inception. “We all know how committed the sheriff has been in recent years to rehabilitate the lives of individuals,” Euille said. “We always try to offer as many social and educational opportunities as possible.”