RCC Celebrates Newest Haynesville Graduate

Summary

RCC Haynesville student Stephen Drayton received his AA&S degree on November 4, 2022, after a multi-year hiatus due to Covid.

RCC has been offering a college program at Haynesville Correctional Center (HCC) since 2008.  In 2016 the college applied for and was chosen as one of 67 Second Chance Pell Experimental Sites by the U.S. Department of Education for their national pilot program, allowing Haynesville students to complete FAFSA forms and use Pell grants for tuition, fees, and books. The college awarded Associate of Arts & Sciences degrees and General Education certificates to 32 HCC students between spring 2018 and fall 2019. The program was growing as additional cohorts were added…and then the pandemic halted in-person classes in March 2020. The spring semester was completed with paper packets of assignments that had to be quarantined in the prison mailroom before eventual delivery to students.    

Student Stephen Drayton had only one more class to complete at that point– a 200-level literature course — and he had to wait over 2 years until the college resumed credit classes in summer 2022. That course was offered in a novel way. Instructor Dr. Matthew Brent taught ENG 251 (World Literature) via Polycom video conferencing from the Warsaw Parole & Probation Office while his students gathered in a socially-distanced classroom at HCC. And finally, on Friday, November 4, Mr. Drayton became the sole 2022 RCC graduate to walk across the prison gymnasium floor to receive his AA&S degree from RCC President Dr. Shannon Kennedy. 

Stephen Drayton, who was raised in Newport News, finished the 8th grade but never attended classes in high school. When he became incarcerated in 2011 at 20 years of age, his parents and sister Brandy inspired him to continue his education. He obtained his GED in 2013 and began the RCC program in summer 2018 as a member of cohort #4. As he remembers, “I started out playing and not taking it seriously until what I started learning became active in my life. I never had any faith that I could accomplish anything in education. This is a major accomplishment for me coming from my background. Rehabilitation started for me the very day I sat in a college class as an RCC student. I feel as if I can get back out into society with confidence. Thanks to RCC I’m now a true believer in myself.” He would like to further his education by studying HVAC/Electrical Engineering in Richmond. 

In the audience as Mr. Drayton graduated Magna Cum Laude with a 3.625 GPA were proud RCC administrators, staff and faculty — Dr. Eric Barna, Dr. Amanda Lloyd, Dr. Matthew Brent, Dr. Gena McKinley, Janet Little, Kelly Osuanah, Kathy Payne, Marlene Cralle, and Deborah Hughes.