Transformation and Re-entry through Education and Community (TREC)
Minneapolis College, Minnesota Department of Corrections (MnDOC), Lino Lakes Correctional Facility and Stillwater Correctional Facility joined in a partnership in 2021 to provide eligible incarcerated students the opportunity to achieve a two-year Associate of Arts degree at no cost.
The program enrolled more than 80 students in the first year and will enroll 150 students for 2022-23. Funding has been provided through grants and donations from Ascendium, Jobs for Future and the Minneapolis College Foundation. The program was also awarded the U.S. Department of Education’s Second Chance Pell experimental site so that incarcerated students are eligible for Federal Pell grants. Second Chance Pell will allow the program to expand enrollment, provide additional services, add new A.A. and A.S. programs and partner with Metropolitan State University for a bachelor’s degree.
Matthew Palombo, philosophy faculty at Minneapolis College and program coordinator at Lino Lakes, created the program after being inspired by former students who are incarcerated and talking to administrators at the college, Randy Bergman, education director at Lino Lakes, and Janet Morales and Daniel Karpowitz from MnDOC. He was driven to provide participants new opportunities to build their skills and improve their odds of long-term success. Maran Wolston, philosophy faculty at Minneapolis College, taught Logic at Lino Lakes in spring 2022 to more than 40 students and has since become program coordinator at Stillwater.
“We know that providing a college education is proven to reduce recidivism rates and increase employment, both of which improves public safety and allows individuals to return home and be positive contributors in their communities,” said Palombo, who appreciates the student energy and collaborations backing the program. “The program has been building since fall of 2021 where we are striving to create an educational environment and culture inside of prisons.”
The expanded program called for a new name. Students reflected on their experiences and the name Transformation and Reentry through Education and Community (TREC) was born.
“The name exemplifies student experiences and their long and difficult journey to freedom,” said Palombo, who shared stories of students who were released from Lino Lakes Correctional Facility and matriculated to campus. “I’ve been teaching for more than 20 years and through this program, I see our mission of the transformational power of education played out in the lives of people in our prison systems. Every day has been met with excitement, challenges and gratitude of students who are laser-focused, energized and outperforming their peers.”
Travis Hansen – Embracing the Pressure with Patience and a Positive Mindset
Travis Hansen, a Minneapolis College student studying Architectural Technology, became a student at Lino Lakes Correctional Facility through TREC. The first student to start studying on campus after being released, he is embracing the pressure with patience and a positive mindset, knowing he is paving the way for students who will follow him.
“I am thankful for the support and countless resources made available to me by Minneapolis College, the Minneapolis College Foundation and their community partners,” said Hansen, who was released early to attend college on campus. “I was welcomed and supported as I moved through unexpected barriers. Faculty and staff at the College wanted to ensure I had every opportunity available to me. It has been amazing.”
Hansen is proud to be building a foundation for future TREC participants. “My success equals other people’s successes” said Hansen. “The hardships I encounter will help other people relate and move through the program more easily.”
Adrianna Mattinas – Creating a Movement for Change
When Adrianna Mattinas stepped on campus, she was immediately welcomed, supported and encouraged to reach for her goals. “Right away, I noticed how open, safe and encouraging the campus community felt,” said Mattinas, who enrolled in TREC in February of 2021 while serving time at Lino Lakes. She matriculated to campus after her release in April of 2021. “As a Native American transgender person who grew up in Northern Minnesota, I appreciate the diversity of the student body and how the College strives to eliminate barriers and build bridges.”
“When you step into prison, you step back 20 years,” said Mattinas, who shared how humiliating and dehumanizing the criminal justice system can be. “The movement for change is not there. I want to be part of creating a movement for change, ensuring regardless of a person’s identity they are not treated as abnormal or dysfunctional and tossed away.”
Mattinas is working hard toward her goals, pursuing a dual degree in Liberal Arts and Community Development. She expects to graduate in the fall of 2023 and transfer to a four-year school to pursue her bachelor’s. TREC is supporting her along the way.