A decade ago, Tyrone Wheeler was in prison. His transformation began with Essex County College’s unique comprehensive academic and reentry Next Step Program (NSP). Through the program, Mr. Wheeler earned his Associate degree in Business Administration in 2013.
Last week he was featured in the Wall Street Journal as he graduated from Seton Hall University with a 3.9 grade point average and bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.
Essex County College’s NSP, the first of its kind in the state, specifically targets individuals with a history of incarceration and/or substance abuse. Its primary goal assists individuals with transition from the state Department of Corrections system to a productive role in their communities.
Participants are selected from local halfway houses, according to Dr. Elvira Vieira, Acting Dean of Community & Continuing Education/WEC. NSP staff then conducts interviews there and evaluates potential participants based on factors including projected release date and post-release address, educational level, financial aid eligibility, post-release substance abuse plan (if applicable), length of parole supervision and interest in a college-level program.
In addition to the academic coursework, NSP participants attend life skills, work readiness, and personal development sessions as well as group and individual counseling sessions aimed at addressing the issues and barriers associated with reentry. According to the NJ Parole Board, NSP’s three-year recidivism rate is 26% as compared to the state’s rate of 42.7% and the national average of 67.8%.
“Mr. Wheeler’s success is a testament to how we at Essex give students the foundation they need to be successful anywhere. Over the past 10 years, NSP has enrolled 380 participants as full-time college students pursuing Associate degrees. We are so proud to have been a pivotal part of Mr. Wheeler’s journey,” says Essex County College President Dr. Gale E. Gibson.
And now Mr. Wheeler, NSP’s latest success story, is a procurement analyst for Wakefern Corporation. “When I think of my recent triumphs and accomplishments, I attribute them to Essex’s NSP. It is an indispensable factor in my story. Academically, although I felt like I was starting at a disadvantage because of my criminal history, NSP’s staff not only gave me the support and motivation to believe in myself in spite of my past, they exposed me to success stories to back up their words,” he notes.
For more information about NSP, please contact Essex County College’s Community & Continuing Education Department at (973) 877-3400.
For Mr. Wheeler’s feature in the Wall Street Journal, visit: