Kaskaskia College held a graduation ceremony for
correctional students in the chapel of the Centralia Correctional Center on
Thursday, February 20, with over 70 students earning certificates in subjects such
as construction, cooking, restaurant management, electronics, and custodial.
In addition, two inmates earned Associate in Applied Science
degrees in general studies, accomplishments that have been unavailable at the
correctional center for a number of years.
George Evans, KC’s Dean of Career and Technical Education, and former
Director of Education at the Correctional Center, attributes the degree
offerings to a combination of the hard work by Scott Crothers, Dean of Student
Success, and the availability of Distance Learning classes.
Distance Learning allows students in the College’s Education
Centers and the correctional facility to attend classes via an interactive
video service. At the Centralia
Correctional Center, this service was installed to allow inmates to attend
hearings without leaving the facility.
It was found to be compatible with the College’s equipment, and the IDOC
began allowing student inmates to attend these classes, greatly expanding the
educational opportunities available to them.
According to Dean Evans, this Kaskaskia College pilot program will reap
benefits, not only for the inmates themselves, but for society.
“The one factor that best combats recidivism is education,”
Evans said. “For the general
incarcerated population, more than half of prisoners, upon their release,
commit more crime and end up back in the system. For those who complete a degree or
certificate, that number is less than ten percent.”
Two students spoke of this in their commencement address on
Thursday. William Davis spoke of “Forks
in the Road,” and how the choices one makes determine the choices available
later in life. “We have been down a dark
road,” Davis said. “But in the darkness
there was a point of light, the light of education. By following that fork in the road, we have
come to the point where the next forks in our roads will lead us to better
opportunities and better lives.”
It takes commitment and dedication to complete an education
while incarcerated. “Because I wear a
cap and gown, and hold a certificate, it doesn’t mean that I am done,” Davis
said. “I still must choose. I choose for my actions to honor those who have
helped us to reach this point; all of the instructors at Kaskaskia College and
everyone who believed in me.”
Michael Harless also spoke of choices. “I have been incarcerated for 21 years,” said
Harless. “I thought the way to survive
was to keep my head down, to not be involved.
But I am due to be released in eighteen months, and I started to ask
myself ‘What will I do? Will I be able
to find a job? What skills do I
have?’ I made a choice then to embrace
the opportunities of education, and now I feel as if the whole world is open to
“My fellow graduates, my advice to you is this,” Harless
continued. “Let your guards down. I kept mine up for far too long, until I
learned that only by trusting others was I able to learn. Ms. Wolfe ( Tina Wolfe, Current Director of
Education at the CCC) and the
instructors from KC earned our trust by treating us as students, not as
inmates. How do we thank them for the trust they showed us? By using what we have learned to make better
Administrators from KC attended the ceremony, along with
IDOC officials. Students in the cooking
program prepared a lunch that was served after the conclusion of the ceremony.