Harrisburg, PA – Cathy Pickett, education guidance counselor at the State Correctional Institution (SCI) at Muncy (Lycoming County) is the recipient of this year's Dean's Salute to Excellence Award from Bloomsburg University. The award recognizes Pickett for being one of the university's first partners in delivering college-level instruction for incarcerated students.
"At Bloomsburg University, we are proud to educate many of Pennsylvania's future teachers, all of whom embody the ideals of the Dean's Salute to Excellence Award: professional responsibility, scholarship and service," said BU President, Dr. Bashar W. Hanna. "I congratulate this year's honoree, Ms. Cathy Pickett, and I commend her for her service and dedication on behalf of her students."
"Ms. Pickett's patient and passionate commitment to this program has been key to the success of the Certificate in Rehabilitative Justice program at the University thus making her the perfect candidate for this year's award," said Dean James S. Brown, College of Liberal Arts at Bloomsburg University.
The Dean's Salute to Excellence Award was established in 1998 and recognizes distinction in the areas of teaching and professional responsibilities, scholarship, and service. Since that time, the college has recognized select individuals each year for their achievements, with selection of faculty based on performance reviews.
Classes began at SCI Muncy several years ago when federal funds were available to provide post-secondary courses to inmate students. Bloomsburg University took the first steps in bringing college-level curriculum to those inmates who were motivated to further pursue their education, gain a degree and make a better life for themselves and their families upon release.
SCI Muncy also was one of the first institutions to implement the Inside/Out Class, which pairs inmate students with criminal justice students from Bloomsburg for a semester. The students work through current trends in the criminal justice system and complete a project for presentation together.
When the Second Chance Pell Initiative was launched, Bloomsburg University once again stepped forward to spearhead certification programs that could be completed during the inmate's incarceration period, and the credits could then be transferred into a degree program upon their release.
Throughout all of this, Pickett has been there searching for credentials, TABE testing, GED testing and counseling these students as to how these courses will help to put the inmate in a better reentry position when the time comes for them to look for employment and housing upon release.
"She has taken on the arduous amounts of paperwork and phone calls that often come along with filling out FAFSA and college applications. She does all of this while balancing her day-to-day duties within the education department that assist other inmates in attaining their GED or Commonwealth Secondary Diploma," said SCI Muncy Superintendent Wendy Nicholas. "She has proven that she is an invaluable asset to SCI Muncy."
Challenges faced by corrections educators include lack of interest among students and a non-existence to learn or be part of a class.
"Their past attempts at academic success were crushed years prior by adults who did not believe in their ability or who felt they were unworthy of the time and energy required to help them learn," Pickett said. "Getting them to trust in themselves is often an uphill climb."
Pickett works with instructional staff to spark students' hunger for lifelong learning.
"My desire is deeper than the immediate goals of getting a diploma or a vocational certificate," she said. "I certainly celebrate these successes, but I want their experience in the classroom to be a springboard for years of learning. I want to help students cultivate an enthusiasm for learning so that they can bloom into efficacious learners."
Pickett believes in motivating students and celebrating where they are on the continuum of learning and allow them to share their expertise so they can gain knowledge from one another.
"We should develop within them an appreciation for differences in opinions and beliefs and take proactive measures, so they feel genuinely welcomed in the classroom setting. We also need to teach them to appropriately advocate for themselves and how to view failures as learning opportunities," Pickett added
A graduate of Lycoming College and Bucknell University, Pickett has served as the education guidance counselor at SCI Muncy since November 2006. Prior to working at SCI Muncy, Pickett worked as a school psychologist at North Central STU and as an ABE/GED teacher at the Clinton County Correctional Facility. She has served as a past adjunct instructor at PA College of Technology and as a past mental health service provider.
She enjoys helping to provide statewide Victim Awareness Education training to colleagues and serves as a member of Muncy's Hostage Negotiation Team. Pickett is a member of Oval United Methodist Church and is a weekly volunteer at Clear Vision Treatment Services.
Pickett lives in the Loganton, Pa., area with her husband, Ed, and she is the proud "Air Force Mom" of Sterling Pickett.