Turning a tassel gives DCI inmates new life options
Cheers welcomed more than 100 women as they marched into the gymnasium at Dayton Correctional Institution — each draped in black caps and gowns.
They are the 2023 graduates from Sinclair Community College’s Prison Education Program. Shelby Knapp earned a community public service certificate–while maintaining a 4.0.
"When I first got here, I didn't think very much of myself. I didn't think I would be as successful. And I thought that this prison sentence and having a felony conviction was the end of my life, that nothing else good could happen to me," Knapp reflected.
"Sinclair really gave me the confidence, built myself back up and let me know that I can be successful. I have people who love me and who support me, and everyone makes mistakes. We just have to not let them define us."
The 29-year-old plans to take business classes during the last stretch of her sentence. Then Knapp hopes to work with a non-profit that helps domestic violence survivors.
Ohio Second Lady Tina Husted delivered the keynote speech. She says once these graduates rejoin society– they’ll need mentors.
"They need people to know that they have someone they can go to when things are getting difficult, somebody to back them, maybe even financially when they need help," Husted said. "Most importantly, just know that people are there for them and that they aren't going to have to do this on their own."
Sinclair offers 37 certificate programs and seven associate degrees. President Steven Johnson says once these graduates are released, they’ll be ready to help reduce Ohio’s workforce shortage.
"We're talking about areas in I.T. and culinary and help desk and business services," states Johnson. "They're very diligent. Good workers and employers will be lucky to have them."
Sinclair’s Prison Education Program operates in Ohio’s 28 state facilities. More than 2,500 incarcerated individuals are earning certificates and or degrees.