Mt. Pleasant Correctional Facility holds the graduation ceremony

A graduation cake, cookies and party mints served as refreshments to celebrate the achievements of HiSET graduates Thursday at Mt Pleasant Correctional Facility. (AnnaMarie Ward/The Union)

As the lead instructor for the program that prepared these men for their HSED exams, Jolene Cox presented the requirements for HSED and recognized a National Adult Education Honor Society nominee. (AnnaMarie Ward/The Union)

Mt. Pleasant Correctional Facility houses 1,100 incarcerated individuals and provides programs to better equip them for reentry when their time is up. (AnnaMarie Ward/The Union)

MT. PLEASANT – Ten incarcerated men proudly accepted the High School Equivalency Diploma (HSED) presented by Southeastern Community College (SCC) President Dr. Michael Ash, at Mt. Pleasant Correctional Facility on Thursday.

Adorned in red SCC caps and gowns, heads held high and shoulders pulled back, the graduates walked down the aisle past prison staff, program instructors and visitors to Pomp and Circumstance.

Mt. Pleasant Correctional Facility Warden Marcy Stroud welcomed the graduates and guests.

“Our focus is on reentry,” Stroud said. “This is one of the best examples of our success in equipping individuals to do this.”

According to Stroud, the prison houses 1,100 inmates and 160 people living outside the prison.

Of these, 28 men participated in a program offered in partnership with SCC to prepare for and complete the High School Equivalency Test (HiSET).

Jolene Cox, Head Instructor of HiSET and Life Skills, spoke to the graduates and guests.

“At this point, I want to share with you what is required to earn a high school diploma so that you can recognize the achievements of graduates,” she said.

According to Cox, graduates must demonstrate a high level of proficiency in reading, writing, social studies and math by taking a total of 15 tests.

“The reading subtest measures your ability to understand, interpret, and analyze a wide range of reading and information tests,” explained Cox.

Science includes life sciences, natural sciences and earth sciences.

Civics, government, economics and geography make up the requirements for social studies.

The writing requirements are in two parts.

First, mastery of writing requires individuals to make revisional decisions related to organization, diction, clarity, sentence structure, usage, and mechanics.

Second, they are asked to generate and organize ideas in writing.

“Each of the graduates was asked to write a persuasive essay,” said Cox. “These essays were read and graded by real people.”

The mathematics tests measure mathematical knowledge and skills.

“They were tested on numbers and operations, measurements and geometry, probability and statistics, and of course the dreaded algebra,” she said.

Cox asked the graduates to exchange a few words.

[ITALICS] [Out of respect for crime victims, Mt. Pleasant Correctional Facility asked for graduates to remain anonymous.]

One graduate stated that dropping out of high school was one of his biggest regrets.

“I am eternally grateful to you all for giving me this opportunity to achieve this goal,” he said.

Many of the graduates thanked Cox and HiSET Instructor Sarah Raymond for their role in achieving their HSED.

“I want to thank Miss Cox and Raymond for telling me I could do it,” said another graduate. “They made me call home and do what I’ve always wanted to do, tell my mom I got my diploma.”

Everyone offered words of gratitude for the opportunity.

“Thank you for this opportunity to use my time here wisely and not waste it,” said one graduate.

Cox recognized a graduate for being accepted into the National Adult Education Honor Society.

To qualify for NAEHS membership, this individual demonstrated consistent attendance, a collaborative attitude, and a strong work ethic.

While NAEHS does not require high test scores from students for membership, Cox shared that this individual’s scores were in the range of college and life readiness in all subjects.

SCC President Ash addressed the graduates before they presented their diplomas.

“Congratulations, we are very proud of you,” he said. “We hope this is just the beginning.”

“Don’t stop,” he urged. “You can do more. You can be more.”

The 10 graduates present were called individually to receive their diplomas.

One graduate’s eyes filled with tears as he returned to his seat and examined his diploma.

Ash introduced the class and proud smiles spread across the men’s faces as they faced the audience and twirled their tassels.

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