Fall 2008 Stories
What Brought You to Evergreen?
by Ian McGuffick
“Go green” is probably not a motto likely to be seen at a corrections facility. But Dan Pacholke, for one, is working to change that notion. During the past four years he has been educating inmates through hands-on projects and lessons in sustainability.
The work of Pacholke, a prison superintendent and Evening and Weekend Studies student, has become a model in the Washington State Department of Corrections. At Cedar Creek Corrections Center near Olympia, he put his environmental studies into practice, helping set up a pesticide-free organic garden, a bee-keeping operation, and a zero-waste recycling facility.
“These guys walked by the organic garden everyday,” Pacholke explains inmates’ initial reaction to the project. “They started asking questions such as ‘how does this work?’ or ‘when can we eat that?’”Pacholke credits Evening and Weekend Studies for inspiring his work at the prison. “I’ve taken interesting classes with direct application,” he says, “I can literally take a course and apply it to my job at the same time.”
Calling its class offerings “restorative,” Pacholke was drawn to Evergreen’s emphasis on small group work and critical thinking because “that’s what the work world is all about,” he says.
“I like that you can take whatever is interesting to you,” says Pacholke, calling his main studies of criminal justice and environmental science a “pretty weird combination.”Pacholke wasn’t always attracted to academics: “I didn’t hold school in a high regard,” he says, reflecting on his 1979 graduation from Timberland High School. “I felt I could do without it.
”Pacholke took a construction job after high school, then followed his father’s footsteps as a corrections officer. Most important to Pacholke in attending is setting an example for his children, ages 19 and 16. “I’ve always told my kids to go to college,” he says, “so I really wanted to graduate before my son finished high school.”
Evergreen’s Evening & Weekend Studies classes fit Pacholke’s busy work schedule and the opportunity to study with a diverse student body. “It’s been interesting taking classes with people of different ages, from different places in life, work, and with different interests,” he explains, adding that all of his faculty have all shown interest in sustainability issues.“
Dan is one of many amazing adult students who bring a wealth of real-world experience into Evergreen’s evening and weekend classes,” says one of his faculty, Nancy A. Parkes. “Our students learn a great deal from one another.”
“Teachers are more like facilitators here, and there’s a flexibility, regardless of your background or training, to pursue what you want,” Pacholke adds. “Evergreen serves as a place where someone like me can be intrigued.”