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Madison-Area Nonprofit JustDane to Develop Hospitality Management Training Program for Residents Impacted by Incarceration

Madison, WI—As our local and national economies recover from a challenging 2020, at least one population is still being left behind. According to the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, nearly 1 in 3 people in the U.S. has a criminal record, and a report from the Ford Foundation indicates that lifetime earnings for formerly incarcerated people are almost 30% lower than they are for the rest of the working population. Thankfully, Madison-area nonprofit JustDane has imagined a way to support this group while helping a hospitality industry ravaged by the COVID-19 health crisis at the same time.

Building off the success of its other programs, JustDane will develop a hospitality management training program for those impacted by incarceration, homelessness, substance abuse and other life challenges. The 12-week course will include an industry-recognized hospitality management curriculum and will provide a career pathway into restaurant and hotel management and entrepreneurship. Expected to launch in 2022, the program’s development is made possible by a $55,000 planning grant from Ascendium Education Group.

As with JustDane’s other programs, participants will receive case management and peer support while completing their training. JustDane also hopes to offer them transferrable credits and automatic acceptance into Madison College’s Hospitality Management Program should they complete the new course — an arrangement already in place for its popular Just Bakery training program.

Known for decades as Madison-area Urban Ministry, JustDane helps individuals returning to Dane County after incarceration or other life challenges by breaking down the barriers that can prevent them from fully participating in their community. Through programs like Just Bakery, the organization has created meaningful partnerships with employers throughout the Madison area. The hospitality management program emerged from conversations with those employers, who expressed a growing need for well-trained managers and front-of-house staff in the hospitality industry.

“Adding a hospitality management training track to Just Bakery's curriculum is something we've been wanting to do for several years,” says JustDane’s executive director Linda Ketcham. “Expanding the curriculum and training will increase the number of career and college pathways for our students, which will increase their lifetime earning potential. Just Bakery offers a second chance and expanding the program offers that second chance to more students.”

Amy Kerwin, Ascendium’s vice president of education philanthropy, reached out to JustDane after recognizing similarities in the organizations’ missions. “As a national philanthropy, Ascendium supports systemic efforts to expand high-quality postsecondary education for incarcerated people,” says Kerwin. “We’re excited to have an organization like JustDane doing this work in our own backyard.”

Learn more about JustDane and Ascendium’s grants to local nonprofit organizations.