Newsmakers: North Hennepin’s Mary Fenske Talks About New Program Educating People Behind Bars
North Hennepin Community College is one of five local colleges selected for the Second Chance Pell Experiment, which provides federal funding to educate people who are incarcerated.
“The time is really ripe right now,” said Mary Fenske, who oversees the North Hennepin program. “There’s so much that folks want to do to make the system better and how we can improve the criminal justice system. One of the ways to do that is to really get justice-impacted people involved in the process and one of the ways you can do that is by providing a legal education to them.”
The expansion of the Second Chance Pell Experiment program includes a total of 73 sites so that up to 200 programs will be able to participate. North Hennepin started a program in the fall of 2021 with a group of students from the Stillwater and Shakopee Correctional Facilities. The students study in the paralegal program.
“Part of our desire is to try to work within the system to provide education to them, so they can not only use the education upon release when they go out on job market but also for those who may not be released immediately,” said Fenske. “So these students would normally not have access to federal financial aid funds, but as a now-member of that experiment, North Hennepin Community College has the ability to use Pell grants to fund the education of students who are now behind bars.”