[SPOKANE, Wash.] When David Koch first started attending Spokane Community College, he felt out of place.
“Although there were all the positive emotions of feeling grateful that I get to go there, I felt like I got something written across my forehead that I’ve been in prison for 20 years.”
After being incarcerated for two decades, Koch had to adjust to life outside. He wasn’t used to certain freedoms, like driving a car, making his own breakfast or attending college.
“Just walking out the door itself was monumental,” said Koch, who is a US Navy veteran. “There’s a whole wide range of emotions because, number one, I'd been in a secure environment for 20 years to where you don't take a step or you don't go from point A to point B, unless you're authorized to.”
The Washington State Rapid Reentry Program helped Koch take the first steps toward enrolling in college. Within 24 hours after his release from prison, he contacted SCC to figure out how to get a degree. Spokane County’s reentry program navigator, Suzanne Phillips, helped him navigate everything from filling out the form for Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to using his laptop. He said she almost always accepted his phone calls.
“She told me she’s my go-to girl,” Koch said. “If it had not been for her and this transition program and their complete acceptance of me as a person in spite of the fact of where I just came from, I would not have landed as solidly as I did.”
But it wasn’t just Phillips who helped. Koch said there were several people who assisted him in navigating the college system. Now he’s set to graduate with a business degree in June.
“I am so thankful that I got to get out of prison, and that I'm not the same person I was going into prison,” Koch said. “This will be my college that I get to graduate from, which, 20 years ago, it wasn't even in my mind.”
Koch recommends that anyone coming out of incarceration needs to research their options immediately. He said that just taking that first step will lead to more steps. Koch also emphasized the importance of having a plan after getting out of prison because many offenders end up going back because they feel lost.
“That’s how important what is happening here at SCC is,” he said. “It will literally determine whether someone stays out or goes back in.”
Watch video on David Koch's journey.
CCS provides education and services in a six-county region of Eastern Washington, operates Spokane Falls Community College and Spokane Community College and is the largest provider of Head Start and Early Childhood Education in the region. Each year, nearly 30,000 people – from infants to senior citizens – are provided educational services by CCS.