While was taking classes to earn an Associate Degree in Human Services while incarcerated, a sudden transfer to another unit interrupted Christopher Scott Smith’s education with Alvin Community College.
Smith wanted to use his degree to help people who are struggling with addiction.
He was a few credit hours away from earning his degree and when he was transferred, his program wasn’t available. So at his new unit with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, he enrolled in a different program that was available. With just three courses left to finish, Smith was released.
“Since release my goals have centered around finishing both degree programs,” Smith said. “This was challenging because of geographical and degree plans themselves did not fall in line with current curriculum requirements.”
Then Smith connected with the New Beginnings program, which launched in 2021 to help reduce recidivism and provide job opportunities for incarcerated students.
The help from New Beginnings allowed Smith to finish his degree outside of TDCJ and move on with his life.
“New Beginnings really stepped up helping me register,” he said. “Without New Beginnings, I would not be finishing due to economics.”
The program was funded by the Texas Talent Connection grant and provides training and education to students recently released from incarceration or are soon to be released. ACC was one of 18 programs to receive funds from the Texas Talent Connection Grants.
“New Beginnings provides important resources for students and it prepares them for meaningful employment following incarceration,” said Sara Bouse, ACC grant manager. “I have no doubt Scott will be successful in supporting those who struggle with addiction. He will be a tremendous asset to others who want a better life for themselves and their families.”
New Beginnings helped Smith through the college registration process, applying for financial aid and more.
“Without their assistance, I would not have been able to enroll and pay for my education,” he said. “In addition, having constant communications offered me the ability to have one on one contact with staff. This is crucial for guiding me through the necessary steps to complete my degree, not to mention the emotional support and encouraging words.”
As he approaches finishing his degree, Smith said he plans to return to TDCJ to intern and work with inmates to help improve their lives. Smith also plans to continue his education to earn a bachelor’s degree and become a licensed professional counselor.
“In addition to working with offenders, offering my hopes, strengths, and experiences, I will be volunteering in my community , advocating for mental health treatment and substance use disorders among the youth and homeless,” he said.