Reprinted from the Fort Dodge Messenger July 6.

Gov. Kim Reynolds and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg traveled to the North Central Correctional Facility in Rockwell City recently to meet inmates who are working to create a better life for themselves after they're released.

The program is different from the usual classes and counseling provided to inmates.

Inmates take classes through Iowa Central Community College to earn an associate degree with the help of a new financial aid program called Second Chance Pell. Iowa Central is a pioneer in the Second Chance Pell program, one of just 65 schools in the United States participating.

Second Chance Pell started three years ago. At the end of this year, Iowa Central expects to see its first graduates receive their degrees.

Inmates within five years of release who meet financial requirements can apply for federal grants to pay for classes.

The college offers courses in logistics, welding, carpentry and culinary arts to inmates in the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility and the North Central Correctional Facility. The welding and carpentry programs appear to be the most popular.

Inmates are serious about their classess and doing well. The students have a grade-point average of about 3.5, while traditional students with Pell grants have a grade-point average of about 2.2.

State and Iowa Central officials have praised the program. But perhaps the best praise comes from an inmate student.

"This is giving us the tools we need once we get back out," said Jesus Lozano, an inmate at the North Central Correctional Facility.

It is a valuable program that has the power to change lives.

We thank Reynolds and the leadership of Iowa Central Community College for their support of Second Chance Pell. We hope it grows and becomes a fixture of inmate education programs in Iowa.

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