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Airway Heights Inmates Earn Diplomas

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

The spring graduation season began Thursday. More than 100 men clad in blue robes accepted diplomas and certificates from the Community Colleges of Spokane. The venue was the Airway Heights Corrections Center.

In the prison’s visitor center, the graduates filed in to the sounds of “Pomp and Circumstance” and filled rows of chairs, just as you’d see in any high school or college commencement ceremony. Proud family members and friends watched from across the aisle.

After they sat down, Community Colleges of Spokane Chancellor Christine Johnson congratulated them.

“I wish you continued success. We know you’re going to prosper and you’re going to continue to make your families and friends proud and yourselves proud. God bless you and I hope a great future awaits you. This was a magnificent step in that direction,” Johnson said.

With the speeches done, the men lined up and, as Michael Klemke, the colleges’ correctional program manager, called their names, they filed by to collect their diplomas. About 80 men earned GEDs; another 100 or so collected certificates from one of the vocational programs at the prison: computer aided drafting, aerospace composites, upholstery and business. Four earned associates’ degrees.

“This is the first time that we’ve had folks receive an AA degree, so congratulations to these four. They’re the first," Klemke said.

Afterward, one of the four, David Hall, said he’s proud to have earned his degree.

“I’ve always had a knack for business and that’s the only thing I wanted to do. I just chose to continue to facilitate my education just so my family can believe in me again and I just want to make up the disappointment for them,” Hall said.

Kevin House, the colleges’ associate dean of corrections education, says many of the men who earn their diplomas are able to immediately find work after they’re released.


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