Written by: Nick Hacheney
UBB student, UBB's Sustainability Clerk, PAC member
On February 6th, about 40 guests along with a crew from KING 5 News, gathered to witness the first five students be recognized as Certified Vermiculture and composting Specialists. This vocational certification was the culmination of several years of work by the Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) in collaboration with the Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC), Tilth Alliance, UBB, and incarcerated individuals.
Many of the men spoke at the graduation ceremony about the 1,000 hours of work they put into the program in order to get their certificate. This work included at least 800 hours of vocational practicum in the prison vermicomposting facility, 200 hours of academic study, 40 hours of public speaking, participation in numerous workshops, aptitude testing in several biological management systems, and demonstrating proficiency on several pieces of equipment. Near the end of the year long program, the men facilitated training workshops attended by staff and volunteers from Tilth Alliance, where they provided training on various composting methods.
In March 2017, UBB was asked to join the collaboration and facilitate the academic portion. This included creating a new Sustainability Clerk job position and providing classroom time and research assistance. UBB has wanted to incorporate more educational opportunities around sustainability and environmental concerns and this collaboration with SPP was a good fit. The fact that the partnership has opened up a new vocational pathway for our students is only an added benefit.
SPP was formalized as a partnership between the WDOC and the Evergreen State College in 2008, and offers programs in all 12 Washington State prisons, and also in Oregon, California, Ohio, Maryland, and Utah.
Kelli Bush, the SPP Director of Programs, spoke at the ceremony and remarked that the WSRU Vermiculture program has achieved worldwide acclaim and this vocational certification process was the result of years of hard work by the men in the program.
Nick Hacheney, UBB's Sustainability Clerk, developed the curriculum for the program, which has an impressive lit and has been teaching the class twice a week for the past year. He expressed special thanks to Joel Strom, UBB Program Manager, for all his help with research and UBB for providing the platform for this project.
Rudy Madrigal, a long time student of UBB and the Prison Advisory Committee (PAC) member received his certificate and sad that this program has not only opened his eyes to areas he never thought he would be interested in but also given him the opportunity to work with a team of fellow professionals.
KING 5 News filmed the ceremony and its short report titled Worms Behind Bars Change Future Outside can be found here.