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IT students put their skills to work for prison ministry

Posted on: May 14

By Rachel Lawson

What do computer databases and inmates have in common? Students in adjunct professor Larry Tyler’s Database Design course (MIS 432) have been using their skills, not only in the classroom, but also to benefit the community.

This spring, the students took on the challenge of designing an SQL database for “The Jail Ministry,” which is a new ministry in the Los Angeles area directed by Lee and Pam Swengel.

“My goal in the MIS 432 class is to bring a real world information technology problem into the class to assign to the students for their semester project. This gives the students a chance to apply their newly acquired technical skills,” Tyler said.

Tyler noted that today he sees a shortage of professional skills in the IT workplace. Employers are not looking for the stereotypical worker who sits in a back office and stares at a computer screen all day. They want people with technical skills and problem-solving abilities.

“They must use written and spoken communication skills while working with their client,” Tyler said. “Inside and outside the class, the students work on pursuing excellence in their decision-making, learning and producing a product to help the client and bring glory to the Lord.”

The Swengels have been impressed with the hard work and effort the students have put into this project.

“They are literally creating our ministry for us,” Pam said. “Half the time, Lee and I haven’t even thought about the options these students are giving us. They are taking us places we had no idea were possible.”

Pam works as the Administrative Assistant in the EHC and CIS departments, and she and Lee work for Awana Lifeline based out of Chicago, specifically the prison ministry that is a branch of Awana’s children’s program. Lee began working for Awana’s prison ministry for men called “Malachi Men,” and since then Awana invited the couple to start a prison ministry for women in the Los Angeles area using a curriculum called “Hannah’s Gift.”

“Both the men and women inmates who sign up for the classes go through a twelve-week semester, where we present the gospel to them and how they can be reconciled with their children and parent them from afar,” Pam said. “When Jesus Christ is allowed to come into an incarcerated facility things change, in particular the hearts of the inmates change.”

The new ministry will have a pile of records coming in that need to be organized and taken care of, and that’s where the students in MIS 432 come in. “With this new pilot program the need is now, and these student’s have risen to the occasion,” Pam said.

The students presented the project to the Swengels, invited guests and TMC VP of Academic Affairs, Dr. John Stead, in the upper Rutherford boardroom on April 29.

“In addition, each student will receive a recommendation letter from the Swengels, and will be placing a real working experience item on their resumes,” Tyler said. “These student’s are learning to excel in an increasingly complex technical world, and how to glorify the Lord in the midst of it.”