Dr. Owen C. Cardwell, Jr.

Rosel Schewel Distinguished Professor for Education; Co-Director, Center for Education and Leadership, University of Lynchburg, Lynchburg, VA

Dr. Owen C. Cardwell, Jr.
Dr. Owen C. Cardwell, Jr.

Recent Activity Bio
Dr. Owen Cardwell has been in the pastoral ministry for 50 years and 14 of those years were spent leading a church-based nonprofit, Heroes and Dreams Academy (HADA). Through HADA and New Canaan International Church, he developed a partnership with the Henrico County Jail (The Phoenix Initiative) that provided family strengthening training for inmates in an opioid program (ORBIT) who were work-release eligible and within 90 days of release. The Initiative involved family strengthening training through a fatherhood and motherhood curriculum, resiliency education, and mentoring and network formation. Over 200 inmates were served over a two-year period. During that time only 4 participants who completed their jail term had been rearrested for any crime.

At the University of Lynchburg, Dr. Cardwell extended that program to include a job and career development focus for youthful offenders (18-24 years old) who were within 45 days of release. The grant-funded program (From Employability to Empowerment to Career Choice and Development) worked with Career Works of Central Virginia and focused on strength-based learning, developmental assets, and relationships and career and technical education. The program was a deep immersion and therefore only allowed 12 participants.

Dr. Cardwell is partnering with local churches and community-based nonprofits to provide safe spaces for students who are having difficulty maintaining their education through the online approach necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic. This initiative utilizes a strengths-based approach (not generally possible in the current cohort movement in public education) that focuses on content mastery.

BCI Partnership Vision
Currently, Dr. Cardwell is continuing his research in strength-based learning and developmental assets and relationships through participation in Bridges2Progress (the poverty initiative in Lynchburg), serving on the executive leadership team and chairing the Education Work Group. Additionally, he serves on the Educational Task Force appointed jointly by the Lynchburg City Council and Lynchburg City School Board. In this capacity, he serves as chairman of the Committee
for Partnerships and Collaborations.

The intersections of poverty, education, and mass incarceration provides many opportunities to partner with community-based and faith-based organizations. The failures of public schools have been exacerbated in responding to students of color and poverty in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. In Lynchburg City Schools alone, over 1,900 out of 8,000+ students are being tracked as non-engaged. Needless to say, the vast majority of those students are students of color (SOC).

Technological advance makes it possible to restructure how learning is delivered through public education. Learning-on-demand is now available through MOOC courses and innovative delivery agents like Coursera, EdX, and Khan Academy. It is possible to create individualized educational programs (IEPs) for every single student based on their individual strengths and interests. Classroom teachers can become learning coaches with access (on-demand) to content experts (math, English, foreign languages, etc.).

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