Staff Report – Merced Sun-Star
Inmates at Valley State Prison last week took a step toward a brighter future.
On Nov. 6, 125 graduates from the Valley State Adult School at Valley State Prison walked down the aisle to receive recognition and their diplomas for their hard work and dedication. This is a big event in the lives of the inmates trying to benefit from a bad situation. Valley State Prison converted from an all-female facility to a level II male facility in January. It has been the focus of Principal Zack Patrick to provide a solid and successful educational experience for the new male population. From the beginning of the conversion, education and vocational training was a focal point for Patrick and Warden Ron Davis.
“Many of the inmates are tired of the negative lifestyle that landed them in prison and want to take steps to correct their behavior. Today 125 men took that first step to better serve themselves through education,” said Davis. “I want to thank Mr. Patrick and his team of quality educators for inspiring these men to succeed.”
Of the inmates receiving recognition, 100 received a general education degree, 25 received vocational certificates, one inmate received his high school diploma and another inmate received an associate of arts degree from Lassen Community College. “This is a great day for all of us at VSP,” said Vice Principal Todd Welch. “When these men make the decision to change, and to go forward with their education, they are a very motivated bunch. Each of these men had to put in the time and effort to make this day possible. I congratulate every one of them for their accomplishment.”
Inmate Raul Reyes from San Diego graduated with his general education degree. “In high school I lived in a Ford Bronco with four other family members. We moved a lot so I dropped out of school,” he said. “When I was arrested, I knew I had to get an education to find a good job. I asked to be placed into education so I could get my GED. I never gave up and I hope to use my degree when I parole in January.”
Inmate Mychal Woods of Oakland said that he “was put in the electronics class. I thought it was going to be too hard, but Mr. Lewis, the instructor took his time and made sure everyone was learning. It is fun to learn something new.”
Valley State Adult School is an accredited adult education center. Since the inception of the education program at Valley State Prison in 1995, Valley State Adult School has received a six-year accreditation from the Western Associations of Schools and Colleges (WASC) in each of the three accreditation periods. A six-year accreditation is the highest possible award presented by WASC.
(First published by Merced Sun-Star and used here by permission)