New class is first inside Valley State Prison leading to a bachelor’s degree

CDCR 2021 Valley State Prison students look at a video screen.
Valley State Adult School students attend class via a livestream.

History is being made in Chowchilla. As part of the Youth Offender Rehabilitative Community program at Valley State Prison (VSP), the Valley State Adult School (VSAS), in collaboration with California State University, Fresno (CSU-Fresno), launched a “Criminology 120, Juvenile Delinquency” class on April 15.

Taught by Dr. Emma Hughes of CSU-Fresno, this is the first course offered inside the fence at VSP leading to a bachelor of arts (BA) degree. This class is the first of what is hoped to be many more BA classes as the two schools work towards a matriculated BA degree program.

Due to COVID restrictions, the class of 25 students had to be split into two classrooms at Valley State Prison to allow social distancing.

Furthermore, since outside guests were not allowed on grounds, Dr. Hughes had to teach the class via remote video, another first for VSAS students! Of course, this necessitated VSAS staff to be on hand to set up the call and supervise the classroom. Nely Llanos and Denette Zaninovich, two VSAS Post-Secondary and Continuing Education teachers, volunteered to flex their work hours to facilitate these classes.

Students had to meet CSU-Fresno requirements to be admitted as an upper-division transfer student, including having completed a minimum of 60 semester (or 90 quarter units) of transferable coursework; have an overall college GPA of at least 2.00; be in good standing at the last college or university attended; and must also meet CDCR’s requirements by remaining disciplinary free.

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