Pennsylvania Principal Honored for Transforming Inmate Education

PA Department of Corrections Announces First Group of Inmates Under Temporary Reprieve ProgramImage via PA Department of Corrections

MECHANICSBURG, PA — The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PADOC) and the Shapiro Administration celebrated corrections school principal Michelle Lipko from SCI Waymart for earning a 2024 Governor’s Award for Excellence. Lipko was one of 56 state employees honored at a ceremony in Harrisburg on June 17.

Innovative Educational Programs

Principal Lipko received recognition for her innovative approach to education within the correctional facility. She engaged community stakeholders to bring new educational opportunities to incarcerated students. Her initiatives have included programs that offer transferable college credits, writing workshops, and guest lecture series. These efforts provide inmates with tools to envision and achieve a successful future beyond prison walls.

“Those who achieve higher levels of educational attainment are more likely to be successful with their reentry efforts and less likely to commit another crime and return to prison,” said PADOC Secretary Dr. Laurel R. Harry.

Comprehensive Education and Vocational Training

In her role, Lipko oversees various educational and vocational programs typical in state correctional institutions. These include GED/CSD classes, business education, cosmetology, carpentry, and culinary courses. However, she has gone beyond traditional offerings by partnering with universities to provide advanced educational opportunities.

In 2023, Lipko collaborated with Lackawanna College to offer an 18-credit Business Certificate program. These credits are transferable to over 40 colleges and universities, enabling students to pursue higher education degrees upon release.

Expanding the Inside-Out Program

Lipko also expanded the Inside-Out program, working with Keystone College, Widener University, and St. Joseph’s University. This initiative fosters dialogue between incarcerated and traditional students on criminal and social justice issues. It aims to build mutual understanding and personal growth among participants.

Additional Programs and Workshops

Moreover, Lipko facilitated the introduction of programs by Shining Light Ministries and Prison Fellowship. She also organized lecture series and writing workshops in collaboration with Scranton and Widener Universities. These programs have equipped inmates with crucial tools for personal development and rehabilitation.

Education: Key to Inmate Rehabilitation

The success of Principal Lipko’s initiatives highlights the significant role education can play in rehabilitation. Providing inmates with educational opportunities not only aids their personal growth but also helps reduce recidivism rates. This, in turn, can lead to safer communities as former inmates reintegrate with better skills and prospects.

Transforming Lives: Excellence in Education within the Correctional System

The Governor’s Awards for Excellence honor Commonwealth employees who demonstrate exemplary job performance, leadership, innovation, and increased efficiency. Principal Lipko’s work exemplifies these qualities, showcasing her commitment to transforming lives through education.

“Principal Lipko’s seemingly boundless positive energy and commitment to her students exemplify our Department’s commitment to rehabilitation and preparing those in our custody for successful reintegration into the community,” said Secretary Harry.

In conclusion, Michelle Lipko’s recognition underscores the transformative power of education within the correctional system. Her efforts not only benefit the inmates but also contribute to building stronger, safer communities.

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