Kaskaskia College Holds Centralia Correctional Center Graduation

It was a proud day at the Centralia Correctional Center.  Over 100 student inmates earned certificates in a variety of career and technical programs offered at the Centralia Correctional Center by Kaskaskia College in a commencement ceremony held on Thursday, August 22.  The students earned certificates in Basic Construction Occupations, Construction Occupations, Food Service, Advanced Commercial Cooking, Basic Electronic Devices, Basic Electronics, Basic Electronics Technology, Commercial Custodial Services, and Basic Restaurant Management.

In a written statement distributed to those attending the ceremony, Kaskaskia College President Dr. Jim Underwood wrote “It is indeed our honor and privilege to be congratulating the graduates of the KC educational programs at the Centralia Correctional Center. Through education we are changing the lives of many offenders as they will be prepared to lead productive and successful careers in the future.”

This theme of changing lives and hope for the future was evident in the addresses given by three students at the ceremony, as they reflected on where they have been and where they hope to be in the future.  Each of their speeches was polished and highly motivational.

William Armstrong, who earned a certificate in Construction and Commercial Cooking, spoke of his enlightenment starting 12 years ago, when he realized that adversity was not a barrier to accomplishing positive things; it is only an obstacle to be overcome with hope and determination.  “Twelve years ago, I began to realize that I could be, and can be, much better than I was.”  Armstrong said.  “If you always do as you have always done, you will always get what you always got.  It is time to break that cycle, and education gives us the opportunity to do that.”

Maurice Turner completed the Construction and Cooking programs and is a Teacher’s Assistant for the Construction program.  “Today is the start of a bigger and better future with education as the key,” Turner said.  “Yesterday is history, and the future is our mission.  But today, today is a gift; that’s why they call it the present.  Anything worth fighting for has a price. We are paying the price now for the past, and today’s gift will give us the strength to fight for our future.”

Brandon Franklin, completer of the Construction and Cooking programs and Teacher’s Assistant in the Cooking program, held up the famous struggle of Nelson Mandela as an example to his fellow students.  “Nelson Mandela showed us that incarceration can be a stepping stone,” Franklin said. “Your potential is unlimited.  Use this time to reinvent yourselves, and aspire to greater things.  Be committed to a better future.”

Bill Hawley, Chairman of the KC Board of Trustees, told the students “Life has dealt you some bad cards, but with the help of education, you can stack the deck in your favor.”

Education does work in combating recidivism, or the rate at which offenders return to incarceration after release.  According to a study conducted by George Evans, KC’s Dean of Career and Technical programming and former Director of Education at the Centralia Correctional Center, the recidivism rate for the general population of inmates is over 50%.  But for those who complete one or more occupational programs during incarceration, recidivism drops to below 10%.  “Education is the only factor that is proven to be effective in rehabilitating offenders so that they don’t return to the activities that end in incarceration,” Evans said.  Kaskaskia College is helping to rehabilitate incarcerated students by offering occupational certificate programs, and also by launching a pilot program that uses distance learning, or interactive TV, technology to offer students at the Correctional Center the opportunity to attend classes that originate on the KC main campus.

Correctional students must meet the same academic standards and criteria as every other KC student.​

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