Strengthening Communities Through Education: Corrections School Principal Earns Governor’s Award for Excellence

Mechanicsburg, PA – Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PADOC) Secretary Dr. Laurel R. Harry and the Shapiro Administration congratulate Michelle Lipko, corrections school principal at SCI Waymart, for earning a 2024 Governor’s Award for Excellence. She was one of 56 state employees from 12 agencies recognized at a ceremony in Harrisburg on June 17.

Principal Lipko was honored for her efforts to engage community stakeholders, bringing innovative educational opportunities to her incarcerated students at SCI Waymart in Wayne County. Her efforts have led directly to new programs, opportunities to earn transferable college credits, writing workshops, and a guest lecture series, helping her students see beyond the facility walls to a successful future.

“Those who achieve higher levels of educational attainment are more likely to be successful with their reentry efforts and less likely to commit another crime and return to prison,” said Secretary Harry. “Principal Lipko’s proactive approach in this area not only serves to ignite a love for learning among her students, but also lays the groundwork for stronger, safer communities when these men return home after serving their sentences.”

In addition to overseeing educational and vocational programs typically seen in state correctional intuitions including GED/CSD classes, business education classes, cosmetology, carpentry, culinary, and more, Principal Lipko worked with universities across the Commonwealth to provide advanced educational opportunities at SCI Waymart.

In 2023, she collaborated with Lackawanna College to offer an 18-credit Business Certificate. The credits are transferable to more than 40 colleges and universities, so students can pursue an associate or bachelor’s degree upon release.

Also in 2023, Principal Lipko expanded the Inside-Out program, in partnership with Keystone College, Widener University, and St. Joseph's University. The unique initiative facilitates meaningful dialogue between incarcerated and traditional students on a range of criminal and social justice issues, fostering mutual understanding and personal growth. 

In addition, she facilitated the introduction of programs by Shining Light Ministries and Prison Fellowship, along with lecture series and writing workshops with Scranton and Widener Universities. The programs have provided her students with invaluable tools for personal development and rehabilitation.  

“Principal Lipko’s seemingly boundless positive energy and commitment to her students exemplify our Department’s commitment to rehabilitation and preparing those in our custody for successful reintegration into the community,” said Secretary Harry. “I am so proud of the positive difference she has made in the lives of her students and am grateful to have her as part of the PADOC team.”

The Governor’s Awards for Excellence recognize Commonwealth employees for exemplary job performance or service that reflects initiative, leadership, innovation and increased efficiency.

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Corrections Media Contact Details

Ryan Tarkowski

Communications Director
Department of Corrections Media

Maria Bivens

Press Secretary
Department of Corrections Media