Ted and Jan Urton have established a scholarship fund with the Chemeketa Foundation to support educating students who are ex-criminal offenders. They contributed $25,000 to launch the Urton Family Re-entry scholarship fund.
This is not their first act of generosity. The Urtons worked in South Korea as Peace Corps volunteers and adopted their first child there. They subsequently adopted two more children upon their return to Oregon. One of them, Zachary, came to live with the Urtons when he was two. By middle school Zachary was in trouble with the law and was incarcerated in state juvenile detention facilities. When he turned 18, Zachary finished up his juvenile sentence in adult jail and was released.
He was not prepared to succeed outside. Jan Urton describes a beloved son seldom able to stay out of trouble. Now 35, Zachary has spent almost 17 years of his life behind bars.
“His longest stretch out was 4 years,” said Jan.
Zachary is one of 14,655 inmates in an Oregon corrections facility. The average number of inmates released each month is 434. In Oregon, 26% of released offenders are convicted of a new felony within three years according to data supplied by the Oregon Department of Corrections.
The Urtons suggest there are many structural and societal challenges that make it difficult for ex-offenders to succeed outside. It’s hard to find a job or a place to live. Sometimes the terms of their release makes it tough for them to have a normal life. There are undiagnosed drug dependency and mental health issues that can come into play. The Urton’s personal experience led them to fund the scholarship.
“We asked ourselves,” said Ted, “what is the primary source of hope in a community? It’s the community college. A Chemeketa education can get these people back on the path of hope.”
The Urtons urge anyone interested in contributing to the re-entry scholarship to contact the Chemeketa Foundation at 503.365.4747.
“If one or two people can get out and make it because of this scholarship, that would be very gratifying,” says Ted.