Mason Staggs: Education during incarceration leads to long-term employment, life success
“Every graduation ceremony is a special occasion, but what you men have gone through in order to be here today makes your accomplishments so much more outstanding,” Mason Staggs tells a Robertson Unit group of GED and vocational graduates in West Texas.
Former offender Staggs’ success story frequently inspires incarcerated graduates in Windham School District (WSD). Staggs himself was incarcerated for close to 10 years within TDCJ, serving time on the Ferguson, Hughes and Middleton units. He has now been on the outside for 18 years.
While incarcerated, Staggs took full advantage of educational opportunities available in TDCJ through WSD. He first received a GED, then immediately followed up a vocational certificate in auto mechanics. Afterwards, his pursuit of self-improvement led him to an associate’s degree in general studies from Lee College and a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a minor in marketing from Tarleton State University.
Staggs acknowledges the importance of teachers and their crucial impact on an offender’s life.
“Education at WSD helped me realize that the teachers cared about us and were investing in us, so I needed to succeed in order to repay their efforts. I did not want their efforts to be wasted,” he says.
Happily married now with three children, he is an American Board of Optometry certified optician and has managed a major optometry company for the past 15 years.
“Education taught me how to think and analyze problems, which helps me daily in my current employment,” he says.
Emphasizing choices and their consequences, Staggs encourages graduating offenders to use time behind the walls wisely.
“Do you want to waste your time watching movies and sports on TV, until a decade or more has passed you by?” he asks. “Or would you rather make choices that will get you out of prison and put you on a path to a better way? Education is the one thing in life that no one can take away,” he says.
“The tools for success are right in front of you, but it’s up to each and every one of you to make the choice to work the programs that WSD offers. An education is the door to success after incarceration, plain and simple.”