County’s collaborative program celebrates its 26th year of bringing joy to local at-risk children
By Jonathan Lance, Communications Specialist, Contra Costa County Office of Education
For the 26th straight year, a number of representatives from Contra Costa County non-profit agencies were on hand today for the annual Marsh Creek Detention Facility’s Toy Show to fulfill their at-risk children’s Christmas wish lists. The representatives were able to choose from numerous newly handcrafted toys and bicycles refurbished by the facility’s inmates. These gifts will then be given to the children who are being served by these agencies during the upcoming holidays.
All of the attendees were absolutely awestruck when walking into the Detention Center’s wood shop, which had been turned into an elaborate, colorful Santa’s Workshop. Coordinated by Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) teacher Paul Turner and with the help of some of his students, their beautiful bicycles and toys were on display among Holiday decorations. Joining the non-profit-agency representatives were Contra Costa County’s Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata and Sheriff David Livingston, as well as numerous representatives from both agencies to celebrate this longtime partnership that benefits the community.
Both Superintendent Sakata and Sheriff Livingston spoke to the large gathering about the extremely successful partnership of the Contra Costa County Office of Education’s (CCCOE) accredited shop classes being taught in a Contra Costa County Jail. “We are so fortunate to have such a wonderful agency collaboration that creates such value to our county,” said Superintendent Sakata. “With this project, these adult students will certainly bring a brighter Holiday Season to many children throughout our community.”
Sheriff Livingston agreed about the long-standing successful partnership during his morning welcome, and thanked the many representatives with the CCCOE and the Sheriff’s Office. “This outstanding event always officially kicks off the holidays for me,” said Sheriff Livingston. During his offer of gratitude to a number of attendees, he added a special message, addressing the inmates, who were also present at the event and had recently been working on the toys and bikes, “I want to thank you gentlemen and those before you that have been working diligently on this year-long program. You’ll bring a lot of joy to our community’s kids with your woodshop skills”
Contra Costa County non-profit organizations participating in this special event included: Bay Area Housing District, Bay Area Rescue Mission, Brighter Beginnings, Contra Costa County Independent Living Skills Program, El Cerrito Rotary, Friends of Oakley, Pittsburg Police Department, Shelter Inc., The Salvation Army-Antioch Corps, Shepherd’s Gate, La Casa, and VESTIA, Inc.
This year, these organizations were able to choose from more than 1,500 handcrafted toys and 90 bicycles refurbished by inmates from the facility. These toys and bikes are being donated to children served by these organizations for the upcoming holidays. A dedicated group of Marsh Creek Detention Facility inmates have been working on this project for the past year. They have been extremely busy fixing up used bikes to look and ride like brand new, and crafting colorful and beautiful wooden toys, such as, motorcycle rocking chairs, spinning carousels, cars, doll houses, baby cradles, toy tractors, train sets, and more. All of the toy makers and/or bike mechanics are students in the Contra Costa Adult School, an accredited school directed by the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE), located within the jail facility.
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
During the 2016-17 school year, over 3,000 adult inmates (throughout the three Contra Costa detention facilities) were enrolled in classes ranging from academic programs, including basic literacy and GED or HiSET high school equivalency preparation, to vocational programs, including woodshop, construction, and state-of-the-art computer training. By the end of the school year, 37 student-inmate(s) received their high school equivalency certificate (Hi SET) and 29 received a high school diploma. In addition, there were 328 students who demonstrated learning gains in reading or math, and 317 students earned a certificate of completion in computer applications. Another course directed by the CCCOE is the DEUCE Program (Deciding, Educating, Understanding, Counseling, and Evaluation). These three-part classes (90 days) focus on substance abuse prevention. Last year, 78 students completed at least one of the three phases, and 350 students graduated from DEUCE. The parenting class teaches vital parenting skills to women and men, with 140 certificates issued last school year through the COPE: Counseling Options and Parent Education or Parenting Inside/Out programs. Three years ago, the CCCOE opened a new re-entry class at the West County Detention Facility. The re-entry class offers workforce readiness, career exploration, soft skills workshops, and a nine-week cognitive-behavior-change program called Transitions. Currently, 218 inmates are enrolled in the re-entry course. These classes help to provide education and skills needed for successful transition back into the community.