What are you doing for others?

February 23, 2018

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” How fitting that the 2018 MLK Living the Dream award be presented to GCC alum, Ken Chartrand. This annual College award honoring the life of Dr. Martin Luther King goes to an individual or organization that has carried on his ideals in their school or community. In her nomination paper, Judy Raper, Director of Student Development, writes, “It is difficult to move from place to place when Ken is in your company. Everyone wants to talk with him or thank him for something he did to make a difference in their life. When I think of all that Martin Luther King stood for, I can think of fewer better local examples of someone who is honoring his legacy than Ken Chartrand.”

Currently Ken serves as a Re-entry Planner for the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO). As Ken describes it, “Initially, I got hired as a Re-entry Case Worker, providing men re-entry support in the community. The creation of this role was part of a large-scale transformation of FCSO initiated by Sheriff Donelan, including evidence-based assessments and treatment, education and vocational development, and wraparound re-entry support in the community. Re-entry case work includes helping people successfully navigate probation, housing, employment and education, medical and therapeutic care and ensuring they have the emotional, psychological and environmental supports needed to move toward a life of value and purpose. This level of care is unheard of for a correctional facility – I know, I have lived experience.”

Ken says, “Working with clients to cultivate a sense of meaning, purpose and motivation to consider new life directions upon release is incredibly fulfilling.” As Judy Raper described, “Ken lives the job; constantly encouraging, coaching and advocating for those he serves. Their respect and love for him is evident.”

Ken’s work extended beyond Franklin County when he participated in Smith College’s School of Social Work Professional Fellows Program, in partnership with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the State Department. Through this program, Rwandans and Ugandans were hosted at the FCSO where they focused on developing conflict resolution strategies. “I was able to go to Rwanda to help them develop an action plan that they started while they were here. While I was in Rwanda, I met some college-age kids that were the youngest victims of the genocide; they were born from the sexual abuse that occurred during the genocide. As a result, Tara Parrish and I, to fund continuing education for these children, founded Peace in Place. As the program grew we partnered with Aegis Trust/Genocide Memorial and created a second project, sending delegations of Americans to Rwanda to study restorative justice which has been practiced there since the genocide.”

Restorative Justice is criminal justice focusing on rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and the larger community. Advocates see it as healing, both for victim and offender. “Part of this program is to provide formerly incarcerated people with a full scholarship to go to Rwanda. After they return, these participants will then offer presentations for Massachusetts jails/prisons.”

Beyond this work, Ken states that he is “humbled to participate in the Sgt. Jacob Garmalo Foundation created after the untimely death of Jacob Garmalo, a FCSO correctional officer who passed away.” The founders, Kathy and Nick Garmalo, have been working to raise money for people leaving jail – honoring their son’s vision. “I personally witnessed Jacob’s dedication and commitment to the needs of people incarcerated.”

Finally, the collaboration between FCSO, GCC, Greenfield Probation, the Opioid Task Force and the Garmalo Foundation has culminated in Ken’s most recent project – a class at GCC for people in recovery; helping them to navigate education, recovery and a sustainable life.

Says Anna Berry, Dean of Students, “Ken is always physically moving forward, it’s hard for him to sit still, but any task or cause he takes on is always moving people forward. His work is moving the world forward – it crosses boundaries of social justice, of countries, of bringing the most unlikely people together. It’s not that he doesn’t learn from or look to the past, but he has so much hope in the future. And he doesn’t have to drag people with him. People just want to get on board. He’s really an inspiration. “

Learn more about GCC’s “Living the Dream” award at http://www.gcc.mass.edu/diversity/mlk-awards/

By Christine Copeland

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