Four inmates turn tassels after earning GED at Decatur Co. Prison

Published 3:58 pm Friday, June 28, 2019

Thursday morning, four Decatur County Prison inmates graduated and received their GED, while multiple other inmates graduated with Microsoft Office certificates and completion of on-the-job training.

The graduates proceeded in, draped in cap and gown, before Deputy Warden Anita Johnson gave the invocation and Warden Gordon Screen introduced the speakers.

Dr. Lance Brantley, Southwest Regional Principal, spoke on the importance of doing things that are best for the future.

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“You had every right to sit there and do nothing,” he said. “There are a lot of things you could’ve done rather than better yourself, but I am deeply and immensely proud of you for your achievement. Never underestimate what you can do.”

Brantley told the graduates the story of a chicken who broke free from his cage and landed on his own two feet before running into the woods and compared it to the situation they will soon be facing.

“Sometimes, men, we don’t realize it, but we are headed the wrong direction, but we are with our buddies and it seems cool,” he told them. “That chicken was headed to the slaughterhouse, but I challenge you to break free of that and land on your own two feet.”

Brantley said the chicken could’ve returned to its cage with all its other friends, but instead it forged itself a new path, which is what these men should aspire to do.

After a round of applause, the four graduates, Billy Jones, Brandon McAllister, Deiontre King and Coby Chester, stood up to give their graduate remarks.

The men thanked their families, God and the instructors for making this all possible.

“You had faith in me, when even I didn’t have faith in me,” Jones said.

Following their remarks, Andy Semones, Adult Education Program Coordinator at SRTC, addressed the GED graduates.

He told them to keep the challenge up, that this was only the beginning of what they could accomplish. He also tasked them with challenging their fellow inmates to get their GED as well.

SRTC GED Instructor, Emory Smith then spoke to the graduates on how proud he was of them.

“There is embedded in my mind the look on these guys’ faces when they are called in and told their GED scores and told, ‘Congratulations, you are a GED graduate.’ You guys have worked for every bit of this you have achieved,” Smith said.

He gave a special acknowledgment to Chester, who completed 120 hours and stayed the full three hours for every course.

Dr. Maya Rookard-McPherson, Educational Specialist for the Georgia Department of Corrections, spoke to the OJT students.

She applauded the students who conquered the training. She told them there were no promises that life would be easy from here on out; life will throw them hurdles and challenges, but they should remember this moment and how they conquered what was deemed impossible once. 

Barry Reynolds was the final speaker. He addressed the Microsoft Word students. He applauded the seven students who completed the course and told them they should be proud of themselves that they did an excellent job. He encouraged them to not stop and only continue their education.

The students were then handed their GED diplomas and certificates, before a family reception.

Jones’ mother, Barbie Gill was in attendance.

She was extremely proud of her son and knows that when he gets home this is something he can use forever and help provide for him and his family.

“I knew he could do it,” Gill finished.