Professor Michael Oblinger taught in public schools for 31 years and is an adjunct professor at Northern Virginia Community College’s Alexandria Campus. Even with decades of experience, Oblinger said his students at the William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center in Alexandria always keep him on his toes.
Oblinger teaches history to inmates at the detention center as a part of the Open Roads program. This fall, eight student-inmates enrolled in History 122 – a three-credit survey course of U.S. History.
Open Roads is in its fifth-year and has given the student-inmates the opportunity to take college courses to help them improve their writing and critical thinking. The classes also give the students the chance to consider what they want to do in the future and get a head start on working toward their goals.
“They all have these ideas of what they want to do. They ask a lot of really great questions and want me to look up information for them because they don’t have access to the Internet, but I leave class and try to come back with answers,” Oblinger said. “I encourage them to see a NOVA counselor on campus when they’re released, so they can get some help in figuring out their next steps.”
Oblinger has taught history for four semesters with the Open Roads program. Although it presents some challenges that he doesn’t face in a traditional classroom, he is a huge supporter of the program and an advocate for his students. During his classes, he often provides information about college courses, GED testing and entrance exams. He also takes the time to bring a NOVA catalog to get the students started on looking into different courses and programs.
“These guys are all good people who have made wrong decisions,” Oblinger said. “Open Roads can help them get on the right track.
In previous years, students were allowed to take courses in history, English, business communication and psychology. Oblinger said they are always looking for other volunteers to be a part of the program and teach other subjects. Sheriff Dana Lawhorne received his associate degree from NOVA, and with Alexandria Campus Dean of Liberal Arts Division Jimmie McClellan, he is committed to Open Roads and making sure the inmates have access to educational opportunities.
Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through the Extended Learning Institute. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.