Professor John Kelly (or Dr. K as he is known to his students) and Dr. Laura Mitchell together sponsor a Literacy Project in the Harris County Juvenile Detention Center for Dr. Kelly's, PED 3301 - Introduction to Special Populations. The professors come from two very difference disciplines, Special Education and Bilingual Literacy. However, together they have designed and implemented one of the most dynamic service learning projects on campus.
The Excell Literacy Project is an experiential learning project that changes lives - both UHD students, and the incarcerated youth they serve. Every Monday morning at 8:30 am, Dr. Kelly's students go into the Juvenile Detention center and the JJAEP (Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program) to teach the youth how to read. Both Dr. Kelly's face-to-face and online classes are required to do Field Experience. There are three different experiences available depending on the class, the individual student's needs and their time: 1) community volunteering; 2) the literacy project in the Juvenile Detention center, and 3) the JJAEP Literacy Project.
Community Volunteering is a standalone project that is service based. Students go into the community and volunteer with an organization that supports individuals with disabilities or are at risk of failure. Students volunteer for 10 hours and write a paper on their experience.
Each project has its own time commitments, age, and background check requirements. Students do not have to take PED 3301 to join us in the Juve Center for the JJAEP with Dr. Mitchell. They just need to commit to once a week when we begin (approximately the 5th week into the semester). Students need to commit to 2.5 hours per week (10 hours overall), which qualifies as a service learning project and gives students service learning credits on their transcript.
Dr. Kelly and his students have been going into the Juvenile Detention Center for over 6 years. Their projects are the only way into these juvenile facilities to do what they do - teaching incarcerated youth how to read. They go where no one else has ever gone before except the youth (boys and girls) that are incarcerated - not even parents or lawyers are allowed in. Crimes range from truancy to murder and their ages run from 10 years old to 17 years old.
Drs. Kelly and Mitchell have developed a successful Literacy Program because of the involvement of students in the College of Public Service. Dr. Mitchell trains the students. The students teach incarcerated youth how to read. Dr. Kelly encourages students by telling them "you will have all the tools you need to be successful in life and as teachers once you have completed the Project. This is a once in a lifetime experience that will change you and more importantly the youth you will be teaching."