Sojourner's Journey: The Power of Education
“No one can ever take away your education. Because of this, providing education to populations and areas that are typically under-served is so incredibly powerful,” says Steph Gauger, an Instructor from Project Proven & Learner Support and Transition at Western Technical College.
Sojourner’s Journey, a nonprofit organization looking to come alongside men and women struggling with substance abuse and homelessness in Monroe County, Wisconsin, partners with Western Technical College to provide one-to-one tutoring to justice-involved students. Through the Project Proven program, they collaborate with Western Technical College to provide college credits and HSEDs. Steph says, “The tutors from Sojourners are excellent and have formed special bonds with these students.”
Sojourner’s Journey literacy program provides support and another chance at educational success. Shirley Dobey, a tutor with Sojourner says, “Literacy improves the quality of one's lifestyle. [Our literacy program provides] one-on-one tutoring, enabling the student to relearn and retain our education system's rules (e.g., grammar, spelling, math) at his/her individual pace. . . As a result, our tutoring program helps build the student's confidence and self-assurance, allowing the students to see themselves in a more positive manner.”
Sojourner’s Journey joined Wisconsin Literacy during the pandemic. “The pandemic has taught us we are in an ever changing and evolving world, different from what we were used to--a new normal,” states Shirley.
They created strong partnerships and rapport with the jail’s staff and continued to provide services in the jail while closely following the facility’s COVID-19 guidelines. Sometimes they couldn’t enter and weren’t able to continue tutoring virtually. However, once breaks ended, they picked up instruction where they left off.
Through Wisconsin Literacy membership and a Department of Children and Families’ grant, Sojourner’s Journey obtained 197 new and used books, reading glasses, a laptop for tutors, and Study Buddies.
“The smiles and hope these books have provided are so incredible! I even witnessed a few folks smell the new books as we were cataloging them!” shares Steph.
The Study Buddies transformed the depth, access of materials and quality of programming in Monroe County Detention Center. Students are more empowered. TABE testing and verbal feedback reveal increased self-advocacy and literacy levels.