Parish inmates graduate from GED program

Published 12:50 am Friday, June 22, 2007

FERRIDAY — Eight area inmates walked across a stage in a step toward a better life Thursday.

The Concordia Parish Correctional Facility and the Rivers Correctional Center had their 2007 General Educational Development graduation — the equivalent of a high school diploma — Thursday.

Between the two correctional facilities, 23 inmates graduated this year, CPCF Educational Facilitator Mike Ritchie said.

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All but the eight inmates present at the ceremony have since been released or transferred to other facilities, he said.

Four of the graduates at Thursday’s ceremony graduated with honors.

Valedictorian Garmyle Wallace said the GED program has helped him realize nothing is out of his reach if he sets his mind to it.

Addressing his fellow graduates, Garmyle said, “In the future, imagine what we can do with the determination it took to finish this (diploma program).”

“Never look up and say, ‘I can’t,’” he said.

Ritchie expressed hope the degrees will help the inmates in the outside world.

“When you leave, you will leave with not just your release papers, but also with a diploma,” he said. “These GEDs will serve as keys and will be able to open some doors you could not open before.”

Judge Kathy Johnson was the featured speaker at the graduation.

“I always enjoy seeing young men who have made mistakes do something positive with their life,” she said.

The graduates probably didn’t want to be in the correctional facility, but God had a plan for them, Johnson said.

“He just had to get your attention,” she said.

Life is a balance between book sense and common sense, Johnson said.

“Now you have a chance to have more book sense,” she said. “The way to learn about life is to read.”

With knowledge comes power, Johnson said.

The graduates were lucky to be in a parish with a GED program in its correctional facilities, and the facilities hope to be able to offer more classes soon, Warden Pat Smith said.

Sheriff Randy Maxwell addressed the graduates at the close of the ceremony.

“I can guarantee you if you hang out with the same crowd as before, I will see you again,” he said.

“The choices you make will have a direct bearing on your future,” Maxwell said. “With your diploma, you have a tool in your hand to apply yourself.

“Later is better than never.”