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Johnson C. Smith University Contributes to a Safer Community

Charlotte, N.C. (April 4, 2014) – Nine students and three residence hall coordinators from Johnson C. Smith University have been trained to serve as mentors in the Transitional Aftercare Network (TAN). TAN is a developmental program for inmates returning to their private lives after incarceration.

Developed by the North Carolina Department of Public Safety Division of Adult Correction/ Prisons, TAN helps train organizations such as churches and individual agencies to guide inmates as they transition back to their communities after incarceration to reduce recidivism.

The program is led by JCSU adjunct chaplain Khalil Akbar with help from student and faculty volunteers Kayla Bernard, Iesha Bynum, Jasmine Campbell, Sydney Davis, Steven Hamilton, Noni Lengoati, Jibra’il Sutton, Brittany Winston, Dominique Wright, Twanna Heaggans, Wanda Middleton and Octavius Rice, Fred Murphy, Kanita McGahee and local minister Tonia Gathers.

After working for North Carolina’s Department of Public Safety for 25 years, Akbar introduced the idea of TAN to Donnie Shell, director of  Spiritual Life at Johnson C. Smith University. “When I heard the idea I knew this would be a great opportunity for our staff, students and the community,” Shell said. Akbar added, “By equipping these ex-offenders with coping skills to successfully return to society, they are less likely to return to prison.”  

The inmates are in minimum custody and many are on work release programs or are currently employed outside of the facilities. “The slogan of the program, ‘Transforming Lives through a Spirit of Excellence,’ ties into JCSU’s mission to be socially conscious,” added Shell.  Octavius Rice, a residence hall coordinator at JCSU said, “This program helps me tremendously by allowing me to see how blessed I am. I have the opportunity to help someone else in need. It is important to know how to deal with different types of people.”

Noni Lengoati, a junior social work major from South Africa, describes this opportunity as a turning point in her life. “I have never dealt with incarceration before. This experience will teach me to help others in need and not to stereotype people.”

About Johnson C. Smith University

Founded in 1867, Johnson C. Smith University is an independent, close-knit urban university located in Charlotte, N.C. It has a growing national reputation for integrating the liberal arts with business, the sciences and technology in ways that empower tomorrow’s diverse entrepreneurial citizens and leaders. Offering 22 fields of study to more than 1,300 students from a variety of ethnic, socioeconomic and geographic backgrounds, the university’s excellent academic programs focus on servant leadership, civic engagement and global responsibility. For more information about JCSU, visit or follow the university on social media sites Facebook , TwitterYouTubeLinkedIn and Pinterest.

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