TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) is proud to announce the first class of college graduates from the Florida Gateway College (FGC) Second Chance Pell Program. This education initiative is designed to help inmates get jobs, support their families and succeed in their communities when they are released. The first of Florida’s graduates participated in a traditional graduation ceremony at Columbia Correctional Institution Annex in Lake City, Florida on May 17.
Secretary Mark S. Inch said “These graduates decided to prioritize their future and achieve something they may have never imagined possible. Earning an associate degree will provide better career opportunities and an avenue for higher pay in today’s job market when they have fulfilled their sentence. For some, this degree will open the door for continued education. As the first graduating class of this program, and first cohort of FDC inmates to become college graduates while incarcerated, they have set a high standard of achievement for those who follow in their footsteps. We commend them for their commitment and determination to earn this degree and mark a tremendous milestone in their lives.”
Florida Gateway College is particularly proud of the program as well. FGC is one of only sixty-seven colleges participating in this type of programming nationwide and is currently the only college in Florida offering these degrees to inmates. “We believe this program will significantly reduce recidivism in the state of Florida, while providing workforce skills to those being released from prison.” Dr. Lawrence Barrett, President, Florida Gateway College.
Of the 47 program participants, 44 are graduating with Suma Cum Laude and Magna Cum Laude academic honors. This achievement serves as further evidence of the effectiveness of providing higher level educational programming to incarcerated individuals. Providing such opportunities is not only beneficial to individuals in the program, but to the Florida communities where these graduates will return to live, work and inspire others.
The Second Chance Pell Pilot Program offers Pell Grant eligibility to inmates selected and supervised by FDC who are eligible for upcoming release within the next five years. Courses leading to an associate degree in general studies or environmental science technology were offered to this cohort. The next anticipated class will begin in the fall.