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College program offers students with criminal records a second chance

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -

Opening Doors to a Second Chance.

That Ivy Tech Program, which is the brainchild of three South Bend scholars, bears witness to adults who want to reintegrate into society but want their criminal pasts expunged from records.

It’s a one a kind program that has helped over 400 people.

Just this week, the program, won a prestigious $5,000 grant!

But the program was designed for people like Kenneth Steve, who is still haunted by his ever present past.

“After this process is over, I can go out and get a job, credit, whatever it is. Feel confident and comfortable about them looking at my background knowing that nothing is going to show up and nothing is going to be there,” said Steve.

The 35-year-old moved from the streets of South side Chicago to South Bend to start over after two felony charges almost a decade ago.

“What better way, when a school is offering a program like this than to get involved,” said Steve.

That program, co-founded by Adjunct Professor B. Irene Britt and Criminal Justice and Legal Studies Chair Marcus Ellison, gives students with certain types of criminal backgrounds an opportunity to expunge their records through hands on learning.

“The student, while also getting credit for a college class and developing skills you can take to an employer to say this is something practical and I know how to do, not just theoretical things, but to apply the knowledge in a useful, beneficial way,” said Ellison.

Since 2013 the program has helped people file over 400 petitions to expunge their criminal record throughout the state of Indiana.

There are a list of crimes, however, that the state won’t expunge including homicides, sex crimes and sex and violent offender crimes.

69% percent of the individuals they help are between the ages of 25-40.

Dean for Business and Public Services, Violet Hawkins, said Individuals like Kenneth Steve.

“That is the person we were thinking about when we started this program. Nobody said I can’t wait to grow up and be a gang banger! So we have to show them the path. Another path they can take in their life if they want to, if they want to do the work,” said Hawkins.

Unlocking the key to the future by deleting demons of the past.

Opening doors for a second chance not only for Steve but also his 10-year-old son.

“I have to set a perfect example and best role model because there is no one else he can look at. It starts with me first. And it starts with this program,” said Steve.

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