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Five Decatur County prisoners received GED at ceremony

Wearing blue caps and gowns and a smile on their faces, five Decatur County prisoners shook hands with Warden Gordon Screen and received their GED diplomas Thursday at a special ceremony.

Donald Garrett, Stephen Kendrick, Fabian Leal-Rivera, James Taylor and Jode Weaver flipped their tassels together in unison, marking the first step toward a better tomorrow.

“From getting a higher education to job training skills, all of our futures are now looking better and heading in the right direction toward a more successful tomorrow,” said Taylor. “We’ve all worked very hard for one purpose, to put the past behind us and excel into our new future.”

The ceremony featured multiple guest speakers, from regional educations to Dr. Lance Brantley, the Southwest Regional Principal of the Georgia Department of Corrections.

“You guys have a choice,” said Brantley. “You can choose to make yourselves better and prepare yourselves to not come back or you can choose to sit and do nothing. I sincerely appreciate your choice. This is step one, day one of a new beginning. Because you are getting the job skills needed and the education needed to get a job. If we can get you guys a job when you leave here, you’re a lot less likely to come back.”

Melissa Burtle, the Adult Educational Program Director at SRTC, and Barry Reynolds, a teacher at SRTC who taught the students crucial skills in Microsoft Office, and Emory Smith, the GED instructor at SRTC, also spoke to the room.

Smith appreciated working with the students, developing friendships with them over the course of their time in the program.

“It is always so neat to see somebody’s eyes light up when they pass their first part of the GED and they have in their mind, hey I can do this,” said Smith. “I appreciate you guys so much for sticking with it.”

GED Honorable Mentions include Parnell Albert, Bryant Chambliss, Kenyon Epps, Brandon Florence, Brian Fuller, James Gregory, Deqwavious Hawkins, Nestor Moreno, Ricky Neuman, Kenyae Patterson, James Sparks, Kentavious Taylor and Kenneth Young.

Microsoft Office graduates honored at the ceremony were Gary Hogan, Bernard Houston, LaTorrian Jenkins, Carl Rives, Charlie Roberson, Christopher White, Robert Sullivan, Adam O’Quinn, Robert Frazier, Rosario Rodriguez and Billy Jones.