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'A second chance': CFCC receives largest-ever grant, helping former prisoners reenter the workforce

Cape Fear Community College
Cape Fear Community College in downtown Wilmington.

On Thursday, Cape Fear Community College announced a $3.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor — the largest single grant the school has ever received, according to its President. It’s for a program called, “The Pathway Home Project" that hopes to provide access to coursework and job training for close to 400 current and former inmates.

The three-year grant program will support people coming out of New Hanover's and Pender County’s correctional facilities.

CFCC President Jim Morton said this is a segment of the population the college has been trying to assist.

“To help those individuals while they’re in prison training — when they come out of prison to train, and then help them by linking them with other community partners to help with that transition back into life and to be independent,” said Morton.

Some of those community partners are non-profit, Leading Into New Communities or LINC, and area employers like T.A. Woods Company, Premier Electrical Staffing, and David Porter Trucking.

Morton said, in a press release from CFCC, this grant work is also supported "by state and local law enforcement agencies, the Cape Fear Workforce Development Board, and NC Works."

Frankie Roberts of LINC was also quoted in the release saying that this partnership with the college "means we can change lives through training that helps individuals earn credentials that qualify them for high-demand jobs. [...] With so many people coming out of prison during and after the pandemic, more people need this help than ever. Wilmington has a service-oriented economy, so many people who have been incarcerated come to our area to get entry-level jobs. Pathway Home will help people train for sustainable careers they can really enjoy.”

Morton said he hopes the participants can find work in fields like masonry, construction, truck driving, electrical work, horticulture, and landscaping. He said they can also receive their GED through this program.

Morton said the next steps are to hire the personnel to execute the grant. They need case managers, peer support specialists, and a job recruiter.

He said there are also several stipends available for those who enter into training, earn a certificate or credential, or gain employment.

Morton noted that "Community colleges, of course, do college transfer and workforce development, and short-term work training, but we also provide second chances, and this is a prime example of how community college provides a second chance."

Rachel is a graduate of UNCW's Master of Public Administration program, specializing in Urban and Regional Policy and Planning. She also received a Master of Education and two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and French Language & Literature from NC State University. She served as WHQR's News Fellow from 2017-2019. Contact her by email: rkeith@whqr.org or on Twitter @RachelKWHQR