Mason Staggs: Education during incarceration leads to long-term employment, life success

Mason-Staggs-clr-image--NL“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.”

Success Stories

Success Story IconNEW - I had given up on myself - "I could barely read or write and didn’t even realize I had given up on myself… a great teacher from WSD taught me how to believe in myself..."

Success Story IconNEW - After more than 16 years - "I graduated from the electrical program in 1998. I found my Windham teachers were real people, and they..."

Success Story IconNEW - I can now make a living. I’m free - "The welding program helped me build character. Mr. Perry taught me how to talk like a welder..."

Success Story IconWelding Success Story -
"I'm thankful for the welding program I was allowed to take while locked up".


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WSD in Images

Auto specialization students in a West Texas prison learn auto maintenance skills, preparing themselves for future employment as professional mechanics.
Female offenders in Gatesville, Texas, study to improve their literacy skills during a WSD academic class.
Each day WSD correctional educators pass through prison gates across Texas to work with men and women incarcerated within TDCJ.
Students at the Huntsville “Walls” Unit strengthen writing skills during a literacy class.
Texas State Board of Education Chair Barbara Cargill congratulates GED recipients during Spring, 2014, ceremonies. “I am very impressed with the program and with the commitment of the staff and teachers,” she said.
An offender at the Polunsky Unit prepares for graduation after earning his GED through the Windham School District.