Lantern education program

Facility: Ashland University Ashland, Ohio

ADP: 2,500

Contact: Todd Marshall, Ph.D

Situation: According to Vice President for Correctional Education and Innovation Todd Marshall, Ph.D., of Ashland University, incarcerated individuals are often in and out of prison. He says they are looking for a way to set a new direction on life.

Solution: Lantern education program

Results: Securus Technologies’ Lantern helps former incarcerated individuals pursue their career dreams . With its 21st century technology, the program has helped over 170,000 students with digital education content. There have been over 1,000,000 course enrollments since Lantern’s inception. The Securus education program provides nearly 70 courses for incarcerated residents to be able to achieve either a bachelor’s or associate’s degree.

When it comes to Ramadii Parker, it is all about communication. However, he not only is a Lantern student, Parker is putting his communication skills to work by serving as the ”Language Matters” campaign Ambassador for the Securus Foundation. The goal of the campaign is to educate people on dehumanizing language towards individuals who are trying to reengage into society. Parker is featured in a series of videos that brings the message to life.

“Being ambassador of ‘Language Matters’ allows me to be fully engaged in bringing light to the power and capability that words and language present,” Parker stated. “I will try to reach, inform, and enlighten as many people as possible on how we communicate, can have a direct effect on how we view people, whether it be negative or positive.”

Parker was released from Richland Correctional Facility (RiCI) in Mansfield, Ohio in July of 2019. He is pursuing his bachelor’s of communications degree through Securus’ Lantern. He feels strongly that his communications degree empowers him to motivate others on choosing their words carefully, so as not to cripple the confidence of people who have paid their debt to society and are on their way to a successful reentry.

“Through my degree program, I have understood that communication is one of the most important parts of any interaction. This is significant, as we think about how we view and associate words with those formerly incarcerated individuals, who are trying to move away from some of the mistakes they have made in the past, and usher themselves into a future of positivity and prosperity,” Parker said. “Using language to help build them up and not deter them from creating something better, is the main goal of this campaign.”

In fact, Parker discovered the Securus Foundation while he was at RiCI. He had the distinction of being in the first group, of a six-hour interactive workshop, entitled the Exodus Planner Workbook. The program included four categories:
• Responsibility
• Empowerment
• Accountability
• Legacy

100 men participated in the program, which is taught by justice involved (formerly incarcerated) and directly impacted (loved ones who are touched by the criminal justice system) individuals. Breakout sessions targeted questions to help with self-awareness. The takeaway – people realize when they land in prison, they are not going by themselves; they are taking their entire families.

After Parker served his time, he contacted the Securus Foundation to let the staff know how the Exodus class had helped with his discipline in preparing for reentry and that he was pursing his college education through the Securus’ Lantern program in partnership with Ashland University.

Without knowing anything about the “Language Matters” campaign, he explained how he wanted to change the narrative by educating people to stop putting limits on someone, because of his or her past. Securus Foundation President and CEO, Dawn Freeman, said she selected Parker as the ambassador because of his polished communication skills along with his communication degree program.

“Lantern connects me with professors, lecturers, presenters and preachers. Communication, when you think about, is the key to any interaction,” Parker explained. “Lantern connects me with thousands of people, so it is one of the most important things that is helping me with my education and career.”

He is taking a full dive into communications with courses that prepare him from everything like life’s everyday interactions, to even how to plan for those unexpected times, with subjects like crisis communications and business communications.

Why communications? Because Parker loves to talk to people. He credits his Lantern education for sharpening his skills.

“Without a doubt, Lantern made me more computer savvy and improved my communication skills. It has added to my story and given me more confidence, so that I can now help others.”

He received his associate’s degree in general studies while he was incarcerated. He also completed two certificate programs in business and business management through Securus’ Lantern in partnership with Ashland University.

While he was pursuing his degree while serving his time, he discovered his true inspiration in life.

“I found out that I was a motivational speaker. I thought my Lantern communications degree would help me further my interest in going into that field since I enjoyed talking to people while I was in prison,” Parker explained.

Parker describes himself as a seasoned storyteller. He explains how his fellow incarcerated residents took pleasure in hearing about how he was against all odds at an early age. He shares his story of how he turned out to be a winner, despite the adversity that challenged him.

“My leadership role started in high school, playing sports. I went to a predominantly white parochial school. I’m African American, and I ended up being one of the captains of the football team because of my athletic ability,” Parker stated. “Sports not only gives you leadership, but it also helps you with camaraderie and is a good stepping stone to building a successful life.”

That story serves as his introduction to his motivational talk to his fellow incarcerated individuals. Then, he talks about how he overcame some difficult addiction challenges and received inspiration to help him with his recovery with the religious content on Securus’ Lantern.

“I would read the scriptures and let others know about the readings. Then, we would share our thoughts,” Parker stated.

He enjoys lifting the spirits of his fellow incarcerated individuals, and more importantly, he wants to give them hope, so that they too, can get on the path to improving their lives.

“Lot of guys looked up to me since I was leading the ministries, beating my addiction, studying Lantern and getting my degree,” Parker added. “ I am being positive and a lot of things have changed in my life thanks to Lantern.”

After being released from RiCI, he transitioned into a treatment facility, Oriana, where he had resources to help him with his needs including his addiction and job assistance. He was released from Oriana in January of this year. He also was pleased that his education continued seamlessly despite his transition to a new facility.

“Without Lantern, I wouldn’t have an associate’s degree. I wouldn’t have the opportunities and success that I am having now,” Parker stated.

He feels his well-rounded education has provided him with the skills needed for today’s workforce. His courses included biology, psychology, accounting as well as micro and macroeconomics.

Parker credits Securus’ Lantern communication program for providing him with the skills needed to effectively interact with people both in the workforce and in his personal life.

Parker is also relieved by the business skills he mastered through Lantern, especially the technical training.

“I wasn’t really well-versed in technology skills, so I’m grateful that I was able to be part of the program because the tech skills that are used in business today are in direct relation to Lantern,” Parker explained.

He also discusses the strategic interview skills that the program taught him, such as resume design, how to present yourself to an interviewer and even the importance of eye contact. While Parker feels this training is definitely helpful, he also feels he has another advantage.

“I think employers are looking for someone who is beyond well-rounded. Through my diverse background, the adversity I was challenged with, staying determined and getting a degree, means a lot to people,” Parker emphasized.

Something that means a lot to Parker is helping youth. One of his aspirations for his future motivational speaking career is to launch a foundation where he can help young people in underserved communities. He is grateful for the positive impact Securus’ Lantern has made on his life with technology and wants to bridge the gap for youth in underserved communities to empower them with tech skills to help them with their education and future.