HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP)– The WMass CORE program at Holyoke Community College (HCC) has been awarded a Bridges to College grant from the Mass. Dept. of Higher Education.

The $81,605 funding will support CORE, which stands for “community, opportunity, resources, and education.”  The program, created in 2019 by two HCC professors, partners with the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department to expand outreach to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated persons and help them transition to higher education.

The grant will allow the program to expand office hours, advising services, and information sessions at the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department’s All Inclusive Support Services (AISS) facility, located in the WW Johnson Life Center on State Street in Springfield, and support the hiring of a new community navigator position to lead the outreach work.  

Nicole Hendricks is a criminal justice professor at HCC and one of the founders of the program.

“Our goal is to teach classes inside jails and connect people with college who want to continue their education, and to do that requires a lot of outreach, advising, and mentoring,” said Hendricks. “In the past year, we’ve been focusing quite a bit on post-incarceration support, working with individuals who are on supervised release or who may be working while living in a Sheriff’s Department facility.”

Inmates at the Hampden County Correctional Center in Ludlow and the Western Massachusetts Regional Women’s Correctional Center in Chicopee are eligible for the program.

The grant also will provide funding to host a series of community events, including a monthly children’s story hour at the Holyoke Public Library for parents who have been previously incarcerated and their children; and community coffee hours at the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute on Race Street.