Achieving an education is an important milestone for any student that can help propel them into a career. But another important benefit to finishing a degree is providing inspiration to others, said Damion Guinn, an Alvin Community College graduate from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
“We encourage and strengthen those who we come into contact with,” Guinn said while giving a commencement address at the Stringfellow Unit on March 4.
Twenty seven inmates were honored with their Associates Degree from Alvin Community College after several years of remaining dedicated to their education despite difficult circumstances. Several inmates also received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Houston-Clear Lake.
Some former inmates who have graduated from ACC and UHCL have gone on to earn master’s degrees and even start their own businesses.
ACC President Dr. Christal M. Albrecht spoke to the graduates and asked that they pursue their education further. “I want to say to you continue on,” she said. “Congratulations to each one of you.”
ACC offered the first college classes to inmates at the Texas Department of Corrections in 1965. ACC was the first institution of higher education in Texas to offer college programs at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. In 2016, ACC was one of 67 colleges throughout the United States to be chose to participate in the Second Chance Pell program, which provides grants to inmate students.
TDCJ studies have shown that the rate of recidivism, or chance of return to prison, greatly declines as an offender’s educational level increases. Offenders, on average, have less than a seventh-grade education.
Prior to enrolling in college while in prison, each inmate must first earn their high school diploma or GED, and pass all the same entrance tests required for every college student.
Guinn told the audience that no matter how much adversity a person may face, they always have a chance to better themselves.
“Many successful people have found opportunity in failure that they may not have seen in more fortunate circumstances,” he said. “Today all of our hard work pays off.”
Photo: ACC graduate Rodney Ardoin, left, receives his diploma from President Dr. Christal M. Albrecht during the TDCJ Commencement ceremony on March 4 at the Stringfellow Unit.