CSN celebrates completers of Prison Education Program

More than 50 inmates celebrated their academic and workforce training achievements earlier this week, thanks to the state’s Prison Education Program.

The College of Southern Nevada provides the education portion of the program, which aims to help inmates transition back to society. The students are able to earn academic credit and workforce training as they finish their sentences. First funded by the Nevada Legislature in 2017, the program also works with Nevada System of Higher Education, the Nevada Department of Corrections and Hope for Prisoners.

In 2019, lawmakers decided to expand the program across the state. CSN will assist Western Nevada College and Truckee Meadows Community College in setting up programs with the new funding.

“We’re here because we want to make a difference,” CSN President Federico Zaragoza told completers of the program at Florence McClure Women’s Correctional Center during an emotional ceremony.

With six academic credits and 100 hours of workforce training under their belts, the women are well-suited to continue their pursuits at CSN or in the workforce, Zaragoza said. He said he looks forward to shaking their hands again in the fall, this time on campus.

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak was honored to attend the ceremony, he said. The invitation went to the top of his list when it came across his desk.

“This is the beginning, this is the start,” he said. “You can do a lot more. It’s all up to you.”

For Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Thom Reilly, the ceremony showcased what education can do.

“You’re changing the narrative about your life right now,” he said. “Use this education to make better decision when you’re out there.”

Addressing her fellow completers, Autumn Murry, the chosen student speaker and an accomplished artist, praised the students for refusing to give up when classes got tough and for leaning on each other for support.

“There has been individual transformation in each and every one of my classmates,” she said. “This really shouldn’t be called a completion ceremony because we haven’t finished anything. We have just begun to transform our lives.”

To start that transformation, CSN Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs James McCoy said, the students will soon turn in their Nevada Department of Corrections inmate number for a NSHE student ID number.

“You are among the best and brightest of this valley’s college students and your home at CSN is waiting for you with your name on it,” he said.

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