Western Tidewater Regional Jail held a graduation ceremony on Tuesday to honor two inmates who received their GED certificates.
This is the first time the ceremony has been held since before the COVID-10 pandemic, but it usually takes place two or three times a year. During the pandemic, four other inmates passed the GED test, although the prison was unable to host the ceremony.
The graduates recognized on Tuesday were Emanuel Brendelson, 19, and Jeffrey Carr, 27.
“These celebratory ceremonies are my favorite,” said teacher Marie Evans. “It’s so rewarding to see them do something good that they can be proud of.”
Graduates were given a cap and gown to wear at the ceremony, during which they entered with “pomp and circumstance”. Each gave a speech highlighting what this achievement meant to them.
“We want them to feel special because it’s a special achievement they missed out on in high school,” Evans said. “It’s something to be proud of because it’s not always easy. It’s noisy in the prison and they move around a lot. It can be difficult to study and concentrate on the work and pass the test.
Brendelson, who was supposed to graduate from high school in 2021 until his incarceration, said he was doing it for himself because he didn’t just want to be a high school dropout.
“I hope this inspires my younger brother and sisters to stay in school and graduate as well,” he said.
Carr is happy to be recognized for something positive.
“I’ve done negative things, but I’m proud to do something positive now,” he said. “I also hope it will open doors for me educationally and give me more job opportunities when I get out.”
Those at Western Tidewater Regional Jail value rehabilitation in their programs and hope that inmates will reintegrate into society better than they were when incarcerated, which was underscored in the speech Deputy Superintendent Ernie Bower gave. pronounced during the celebration.
The General Educational Development program partners with Pruden’s College and Career Academy to offer classes in which teachers work one-on-one with inmates to help them pass the GED test.
These teachers, along with prison administrators and officers, attended the ceremony and congratulated the graduates.
“These guys have inspired and motivated other inmates to join the GED program,” said Ronnie Sharpe, director of education. “I was bombarded with requests because they heard about what these guys did.”