'New guiding lights': Representative James White praises graduates at Wynne Unit
Published with contributions from The ECHO.
Graduation speaker Rep. James White reminds WSD graduates, "The influence of education on life can never be ignored."
"Gentlemen: Congratulations! On behalf of the Texas House of Representatives and the members of the Correctional Committee of the Texas House, we are extremely proud of you," said Rep. James White, honored commencement speaker at Windham School District (WSD)'s High School Equivalency (HSE) and Career and Technical Education (CTE) graduation ceremonies. Graduates were recognized in Huntsville at the Wynne Unit. Assuring the 71 graduates that their efforts have not gone unrecognized, White delivered a powerful opening address acknowledging academic achievement and the pursuit of self-improvement.
"What you gentlemen have gone through in order to realize your academic goals makes your accomplishments so much more exceptional. It is an honor to be here with you on this day of celebration. It is absolutely outstanding!" said White, who has proudly served his District 19 constituents as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 2010.
White holds a doctorate degree from the University of Houston in Political Science, currently serves as chairman of the House Committee of Corrections, and sits on the International Trade and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee. A former infantry officer in the U.S Army, White also taught government and economics at the high school and college levels.
Graduates from the Wynne and Huntsville units participated in the Saturday ceremony, with the Wynne Unit recognizing 18 HSE and 49 CTE graduates and the Huntsville Unit celebrating four HSE graduates. Gathered in the audience to celebrate the achievements of the graduates were WSD educators, Wynne Unit administrative and security staff, and family members of graduates.
White thanked everyone for attending and praised supporters of education. He emphasized the vital role educators play in the rehabilitative process.
"Teachers are force multipliers," he said. "That means the force of one or two seems like it's 25 or 30. WSD is a force multiplier for TDCJ in terms of rehabilitation," White said. "We know that rehabilitation can only take place in two places: in your heart and in your mind. Just sitting around is not rehabilitation."
White also credited TDCJ involvement in WSD operations and educational efforts, calling them a crucial factor in the education process. He welcomed family members of graduates who were also in attendance to witness their loved ones receive certificates for HSE and CTE success. White remarked that the presence of family increases the significance of a graduate's academic accomplishment, helping to strengthen relationships that may have weakened over time and distance.
"These graduates would not be here right now without the support of their family members. So graduates, if you would, show your families some well-deserved appreciation," he said.
White also acknowledged the benefits of WSD academic programs made available to TDCJ offenders. He said self-improvement requires diligent participation and openness to reach true and lasting change.
"You have to come with your sleeves rolled up and with your hands out, ready to work," he told the students.
Also acknowledging how important the combination of WSD, TDCJ, and a family presence was in a student's educational development was WSD Principal F. Spiller, who thanked all concerned.
"Teachers are the superstars of the classroom who are responsible for delivering the curriculum that facilitates rehabilitation," said Spiller, who is the WSD principal on the Wynne, Huntsville and Holliday units. "Yet none of this could be possible without the unwavering support of TDCJ staff and the family members of the graduates. Your presence here is truly appreciated, and we all thank you," she said.
Noting that society grows more complex and challenging, White highlighted the fact that an education is precisely what it takes for an offender to tackle obstacles that lay ahead.
"An HSE or CTE certificate has opened up the gateway to your future success," he said. "Don't be afraid of success let it sharpen you, challenge you and make you stronger. If you run away from success, you also run away from the opportunity to be your best possible self."
The influence of education on life can never be ignored, noted White, who in closing encouraged graduates to continue their academic journey.
"You just got the HSE or CTE; now it's time to get another 'E-D.' It could be a WSD vocational course, or a college degree. You're 71 new guiding lights, and people on your unit are watching you. There will be at least one of your comrades who will say: 'That can be me, too,'" White said. "You are now leaders in your unit."