By Jeff Noble / Staff writer
For the most part, it looked and sounded like a typical graduation.
The 11 people getting their diploma proceeded into the room, and left after getting their diplomas to the music of “Pomp and Circumstance.”
They all wore blue caps and gowns, listened to the commencement addresses, and had family and friends in the audience.
Most of all, the six men and five women got their diploma. A GED certificate. And all 11 are presently held in the Laurel County Detention Center.
For Charity Collett, Edward Grubb, Arlo Justice, Kelly Napier II, Brittney Reed, Corrinne Sherman, Jessica Sizemore, Christina Surgener, Steven Tuttle, Sr., Terry Vickers and Mark Westfelt, this day was a proud moment. And a cause for celebration.
Held Friday afternoon at the Laurel County Judicial Annex, the commencement was a partnership of Laurel County Adult Education and Literacy, and Laurel County Jailer Jamie Mosley and his staff.
“Each one of you traveled different paths to get here today. But there is one thing you all have in common. You took advantage of an opportunity to earn your GED. Notice I said ‘Earn’. …One third of all high school graduates could not pass the test you have passed. … You were wise enough to take advantage of an opportunity,” said Kathryn Hardman, Laurel County Adult Education and Literacy’s Executive Director, as she addressed the grads and the audience.
Hardman also commended Mosley for his promise to support an adult education program in the detention center.
“He has kept that promise. … The staff at the jail plays a large role as well because they are the ones that identify potential students and make sure you actually get to participate in the opportunity that is there,” said Hardman in her remarks.
The 11 graduates were given a chance to open a new window when they got their diplomas. And Christina Surgener made the most of it.
“When they said we were graduates, I said to myself, ‘I did it, Daddy!’ That’s because my dad was in the audience. So was my mom, son, granny and brother-in-law. I accomplished one of my goals today, to finish my high school education. When I’m released, I’m planning on going to college,” said Surgener after the ceremony.
“It’s an accomplishment. I quit high school in my senior year, and now I’m trying to turn around an unfortunate situation. It’s a good personal achievement,” noted Steven Tuttle, looking at his diploma.
Instructor Ken Corso stressed the test is tough, takes a lot of preparation, and that students have to focus hard on it. And it paid off.
“Almost all employers require a high school diploma or GED. The graduates should be prepared for any type of job that any high school graduate would be prepared for. And non-traditional students do very well in community colleges and now at four-year schools,” Corso said during the reception for the graduates, held after the ceremony.
Jailer Mosley commented the GED program at the detention center is an experience to help inmates improve their lives.
“For me personally, I wanted to make jail more than a place to keep people. There’s so many of them who didn’t have that chance to take that first step. The key is to make our facility a drug-free area, and we wanted them to realize the potential for hope and motivation here in the jail. We want them to believe in themselves. They have to be drug-free and take those first steps to be a better person with the GED program. And today, 11 of them did,” Mosley said.
Hardman pointed out that Friday’s graduation was the first one Laurel County Adult Education has had with the detention center. She added the GED program at the center will unlock a better life potential for those incarcerated.
“Getting a GED diploma today opens a lot of doors for them for employment and education. It’s a lot of pride for their families, and a positive message for children. It’s a ticket they have now to other opportunities,” said Hardman.
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