Director Hired to Lead Higher Education Efforts in Mississippi Prisons

For Immediate Release: April 26, 2023 
Contact: Morgan Miller, (601) 321-5527;  

JACKSON, MISS. – This month, the Woodward Hines Education Foundation (WHEF) hired a director to lead the Mississippi Consortium for Higher Education in Prison (MCHEP). Yolanda Houston will work with colleges and universities and workforce and non-profit partners across Mississippi to expand postsecondary education for students in prison in collaboration with the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC).  

“We are excited to bring Yolanda’s experience to the table to lead the efforts to increase higher education access for incarcerated students,” said WHEF President and CEO Jim McHale. “Higher education can dramatically reduce recidivism rates, increase employment opportunities upon re-entry into society, and change the trajectory or the children of those who have been incarcerated.” 

MCHEP is a collaboration between the Mississippi Humanities Council (MHC), Mississippi Community College Board (MCCB), Mississippi Institutions for Higher Learning (IHL), and WHEF in partnership with the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC). The position is funded by a three-year $1.13 million grant from the Mellon Foundation through the MHC. 

“This grant offers the resources needed to fully implement this consortium and establish a culture of collaboration and cooperation between MCHEP partners,” said MHC Executive Director Stuart Rockoff. “We are excited to work with WHEF and the MCHEP partners to create sustainable systems focused on re-entry that will transform the lives of Mississippians.”  

The Second Chance Pell Grant was created in 2015 specifically for incarcerated students who have previously been ineligible to receive traditional Pell Grants. This year, the federal ban on traditional Pell Grant assistance for people who are incarcerated was lifted. WHEF and other Consortium members are preparing for increased demand from incarcerated students who see education as the path to a productive life.  

Yolanda will work to strengthen, expand, and develop a strategic vision for the Consortium with the direction and support of the steering committee through administrative and project oversight. She joins WHEF from Holmes Community College as an instructional facilitator in Adult Basic Education. Yolanda has extensive experience in higher education in teacher education preparation and student success.  

A resident of Byram, Yolanda has a bachelor’s in mass communications from Jackson State University, a master’s in human resource management, and a specialist in education leadership and administration.  

To learn more about WHEF’s work with MCHEP, read the 2021-2022 Impact Report at 


About Woodward Hines Education Foundation
Since its inception, WHEF has worked to increase college access and entry for people in Mississippi and has expanded that work to support promising practices that lead to college persistence and completion. The foundation envisions a Mississippi where all people can secure the training and education beyond high school that will allow them to advance their quality of life, strengthen their communities, and contribute to a vibrant and prosperous future for the state. Learn more about WHEF by visiting 

About Mississippi Humanities Council
The Mississippi Humanities Council is funded by Congress through the National Endowment for the Humanities to provide public programs in traditional liberal arts disciplines to serve nonprofit groups in Mississippi. The Council creates opportunities for Mississippians to learn about themselves and the larger world and enriches communities through civil conversations about our history and culture. Learn more about the MHC by visiting 

About Mississippi Consortium for Higher Education in Prison 
The Mississippi Consortium for Higher Education in Prison (MCHEP) is an alliance dedicated to ensuring all students have access to quality postsecondary education and training during and after incarceration as well as the resources and support necessary to take full advantage of educational opportunities. 

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