Graduation Ceremony Recognizes Prison Inmates for Academic Accomplishments

By Andrew Kuhn, Merced Sun-Star

More than 60 inmates were recognized during a graduation ceremony at Valley State Prison in Chowchilla.

The ceremony, held Wednesday in a gymnasium, recognized inmates who have earned high school diplomas, associate of arts degrees, general education development certifications or completed career technical education programs. 

The event had many of the trappings of any other commencement, including a student speaker. Jason Lint, who earned an Associate of Arts degree with honors in social and behavioral science, talked about his many struggles with education during his lifetime, ending his speech with advice to graduates.

“Those of you who are getting your GED, high school diploma or VOC completions, relish this feeling and strive for more,” Lint said. “Education is the key of getting out and staying out. It is one gift you can give yourself that you can use for a lifetime, and no one can take it away.”

 
Inmate Daniel Henson, 37, left, shakes hands with Merced College professor Jennifer McBride after being recognized for receiving the Alpha Gamma Sigma Kathleen D. Loly award during a graduation ceremony at Valley State Prison in Chowchilla, Calif., on Wednesday, May 1, 2019. The ceremony recognized more than 60 inmates for their educational achievements including Associate of Arts degrees, high school diplomas, General Education Development certifications and those who have completed Career Technical Education programs. Andrew Kuhn AKUHN@MERCEDSUN-STAR.COM

Inmate Daniel Henson, 37, left, shakes hands with Merced College professor Jennifer McBride after being recognized for receiving the Alpha Gamma Sigma Kathleen D. Loly award during a graduation ceremony at Valley State Prison in Chowchilla, Calif., on Wednesday, May 1, 2019. The ceremony recognized more than 60 inmates for their educational achievements including Associate of Arts degrees, high school diplomas, General Education Development certifications and those who have completed Career Technical Education programs. Andrew Kuhn AKUHN@MERCEDSUN-STAR.COM

 

Merced Community College President Chris Vitelli urged graduates to continue their education while praising them for making the best of their situation and a better life for themselves.

“Your families, while they’re not here, they’re proud of you,” Vitelli said.

“You’re being such an inspiration to those who look up to you, to those who stay in contact with you, to those who have invested their lives in you, you’re being an inspiration to them, as well.”

Among those recognized during the ceremony were three honor students from the Sigma Delta Kappa chapter who received scholarships from the Alpha Gamma Sigma Honor Society, the first statewide AGS scholarships awarded to incarcerated students, according to a news release.

Of the three scholarship recipients, 51-year-old inmate Anthony Medina received the Randy Taylor award which recognizes the top scoring applicant in the area of outstanding service. Medina said that his community service work started when he began tutoring the person next to him who was struggling.

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