A second chance: Kenosha Correctional Center inmates receive technical certifications through Gateway partnership
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A second chance: Kenosha Correctional Center inmates receive technical certifications through Gateway partnership

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STURTEVANT — When he moves on to the next chapter of his life, Brandon Hall said he sees doors opening, thanks to a program that links the resources of Gateway Technical College with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.

Hall, who currently is in the Kenosha Correctional Center, is one of nine students who has earned a certification as a mechanical maintenance technician. He and his classmates were recognized at a ceremony Tuesday at S.C. Johnson’s iMET Center in Sturtevant.

“I’ve found a genuine interest in this field,” Hall said as he thanked family — including his daughter — for “pushing me to become who I want to become.”

Daniel Wincapaw, who also is in the correctional center, was another student to earn the certificate at Tuesday’s ceremony. Wincapaw said he is looking to the future with wide-eyed optimism.

“I’m looking forward to some of the job opportunities that are potentially available,” Wincapaw said.

At a time when the economy remains strong and unemployment figures are low, Gateway representatives said partnerships such as the one forged with the state Department of Corrections is an opportunity to address employers’ skill-based needs in today’s marketplace.

Matt Janisin, vice president of business and workforce solutions at Gateway, said programs such as this occur through an extensive, collaborative process.

“These types of programs don’t happen in a silo,” Janisin said. “It takes a good team.”

Amy Pechacek, deputy secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, offered similar sentiments at the ceremony, where dozens of family were in attendance to cheer on the graduates.

From her vantage point, Pechacek said partnerships such as the one forged with Gateway are an opportunity to reduce recidivism and give people an opportunity to return to the community with a renewed sense of optimism and purpose once they have served their time.

“In the past year, I have witnessed so much positive change and so many second chances,” Pechacek said.

To the certificate recipients, she said, “You earned this. No matter what the future holds ... you are better prepared for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.”

Local businesses lend a hand

While the Gateway and Department of Corrections partnership has been a pivotal part of the program’s success, so, too, has been the buy-in from local businesses willing to interview and bring on board some of the students still working their way through the corrections system.

Janet Otte of Franklin-based GA Precision Manufacturing Inc. said the growing company she represents has benefited in the past from the students making their way through the program.

To the certificate recipients, Otte offered some advice.

“It’s important that you are a sponge and learn as much as you can,” she said. “You all have a choice. You can be as successful as you choose to be.”

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