A recent ceremony at the Haynesville Correctional Center held double significance for those of its inmates who have put their time to good use by taking classes from nearby Rappahannock Community College.
Five of these men earned the degree of Associate of Applied Science in Business Management, summa cum laude (with the highest honor) — maintaining a grade-point average of 3.8 or better during the period of their studies. Martin Collins, Jerry Daniel, Trevino DeLoatch, Marc Martinez, and Chris Turner received the RCC Scholar Medallion in recognition of this outstanding accomplishment.
“The work the students at Haynesville Correctional Center did to earn their degrees was especially meaningful,” says Dr. David Keel, RCC’s dean of student development, “because it is a concrete example of the positive choices these gentlemen have made to accomplish significant changes in their lives. Though they can’t change the past, they have chosen to make education a powerful tool for shaping their future. The degrees they have earned will not only enhance their abilities toward future employment but will also prepare them to continue work on a bachelor’s degree.”
The medallions were presented by the academic dean of RCC’s Warsaw Campus, Patricia Mullins, who said, “The graduates of the HCC college program demonstrated a high level of excellence in each course they took. As these students attended college on a part-time basis, the degree took five years to complete … they showed remarkable dedication and determination in maintaining the required GPA over such a long time span. We are very proud of these graduates, and the college is delighted to honor them with its Scholar Medallions.”
The ceremony also marked the achievements of two inmates who competed for the college’s Student Research Paper Awards. The purpose of this competition was to recognize excellent writing and research in student papers counting toward RCC credit courses during the Spring 2015 semester.
Fourteen HCC inmates submitted papers; Travis Bernstein received the first place award for his paper on “Political Corruption,” and Quentin Coles took second place for “Immigration.”
The HCC papers were judged separately from those written by regular RCC students, as the latter had access to much more numerous and varied sources of information. The judges felt that these papers made particularly good use of the sources available and were distinguished by exceptional writing.
RCC librarian Dan Ream, who organized the contest, remarks, “Although RCC’s Haynesville students do not have access to Internet resources, as most of our students do, they were eager to compete for these awards, and did a good job with the print resources the college and prison libraries could get for them. It was a nice experience to bring positive recognition for their fine work on these papers.”
Dr. Christopher Colville, as the superintendent of education for the Division of Education of Virginia’s Department of Corrections, has given steadfast support to RCC’s Haynesville Correctional Center college cohort. The cohort classes are managed through the Haynesville Academic School, and are taken very seriously by their students. Since HCC is a re-entry facility, a majority of the released inmates remain in the area.
“In general, we know that returning citizens to a global society armed with vocational and educational credentials is truly the equalizer for positive productive citizenship, and greatly reduces the rate of recidivism,” says Colville.
HCC’s regional assistant principal, D. DaWalt, feels that vocational and educational opportunities at the Center mirror a microcosm of society. “This positive culture of life-long learning is infused throughout the facility, and evidenced through the returning citizens’ empowering others by challenges to be agents of change for a better future for themselves,” she says. Its assistant warden, Dr. Patrick Joseph Gurney (who teaches sociology both at HCC and at RCC’s Warsaw Campus), holds a similar opinion, saying, “Education is the silver bullet in our society. The more educated the citizenry, the better the social order.”