Briscoe and Cotulla’s graduation: A step in the right direction

Windham School District (WSD) strives to provide appropriate educational programming and services to meet the needs of the inmate population and reduce recidivism by assisting offenders in becoming responsible members of their communities.

WSD, in partnership with Southwest Texas Junior College (SWTJC), is helping reduce recidivism through education. The fruits of this labor were seen at the Briscoe and Cotulla units’ GED/vocational and college graduation ceremony recently held at the Briscoe Unit.

The program began when the graduates entered in procession to the harmonies of the Briscoe Unit choir and band. As they marched toward their seats, visitors could see pride and honor on the faces of the graduates and hear excitement from family members and friends.

"I know that pursuing your education in this environment was tough and took a lot of commitment," said M. Daughtry, WSD principal at the Briscoe Unit. The same sentiment was echoed by other staff in attendance including teachers, counselors, correctional officers and wardens.

The ceremony acknowledged accomplishments of graduates from various educational programs offered in TDCJ/ WSD. Vocational certificates were awarded for trades in construction carpentry, landscape design, and electrical work, along with GED certificates. SWTJC, in partnership with WSD, awarded graduates certificates in college level construction carpentry, as well as associate degrees. In addition to awarding the graduates certifi cates and degrees for successfully completing their respective programs, the youngest graduate, the oldest graduate, the salutatorian and valedictorian were also acknowledged for their accomplishments.

Porter-img"I’m sure that there are some of my peers who didn’t plan on graduating this way and may think of this graduation as being less than the real thing. But the same amount of hard work that you put into these classes is no different than what they are doing in schools outside of these gates," said E. Porter, the college graduate who gave the commencement address.

"You should be proud of your accomplishments and understand that this was not given to you by chance. You all took the necessary steps required to go to the next level of your lives. You stayed focused in the midst of what can sometimes be a hectic and confusing environment and did what needed to be done," he said.

The college presentations then highlighted the accomplishments of vocational students who strengthened construction carpentry skills by building a double-wide sized model home on the grounds of the unit. The house will be relocated upon completion.

"The structure had to be built small enough to fit through the gates upon completion, but large enough for practical use because it will be converted into a church. We once offered a one-year certificate but now we offer a two-year associate degree that covers more aspects of the trade," said J. Lopez, who teaches the college carpentry program.

Final remarks reiterated the impact of the partnership between WSD and SWTJC.

"This is a great partnership . It’s a golden opportunity for the guys here to pursue their educations and prepare to return to society with something that can help themselves and their families," Daughtry said.

Other Success Stories that may interest you:

Teacher Recognition 2015 - WSD teachers are changing lives daily within the confines of Texas prisons, using education and job training to help transform offenders into productive members of society. The accomplishments of our teachers are life-altering and long-lasting. They make a difference.

San Antonio Food Bank training cooks up Second Chance for newly-released offenders - Community service, great cooking and second chances for better lives are on the menu at the San Antonio Food Bank (SAFB). T

C-Tech connects Windham students with high tech skills, Increases offenders’ opportunities for freeworld jobs - Using interactive instruction, carefully monitored wire cutters, a hand-held testing device and a classroom partner's input, an offender in a Texas prison school cuts and creates his own wire/cable connection and plugs it into a telecommunications simulator. His teacher follows up with a tester, making sure the connection is successful and complete.

WSD expands vocational programming, course lengths, training opportunities - WSD is proud to share its plan for program expansion through an ongoing series of changes and improvement in the Vocational Trades and Career and Technical Education certifications. New course lengths, course offerings and training opportunities are becoming available to men and women in TDCJ. In the past, courses in vocational trades matched the course requirements for Windham, rather than just the hours needed for certification. While completing the total hours in a course will provide additional skill practice, many students finished the skills much faster than the course was completed.

Texas Tech Grad Goes From Prison Jumpsuit to Cap and Gown - On Saturday, Pereida will put on his black cap and gown and walk into the United Supermarkets Arena, “Pomp and Circumstance” playing in the background. Along with more than 2,300 other graduates, he will walk across the stage, shake hands with his dean, smile for the camera, toss his cap into the air and have a diploma with Texas Tech University embossed at the top. He is 50 years old.