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Graduating HCF inmates stand tall as a deep sense of pride infuses their accomplishment

by Kelton Brooks, The Hutchinson News — last modified Jan 03, 2017 12:04 PM
The keynote speaker for the first inmate graduation at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility East Unit in many years, left the graduates with a simple message: Never give up.
Graduating HCF inmates stand tall as a deep sense of pride infuses their accomplishment

Speaker Tommy Galindo, a former inmate himself and owner of Legends Barber Shop in Hutchinson, speaks to a room of inmates during the Inmate Programs Graduation at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility on October 22, 2015.

“Mind, body and soul, be proud of who you are,” said Thomas Galindo, who also is a mentor at the facility and owns Legends Barber Shop. “I never wore a robe; you’re already ahead of me. Just believe in yourself.”

Galindo also urged the inmates to strive for success and absorb as much education as possible, and was able to connect with the graduates from his time when he was once incarcerated.

“You will be able to call home and say, ‘Look what I did today.’ That is so awesome,” he said. “You will have doubters, but keep your head up and be proud of who you are.”

The facility welcomed 47 inmates at the East Unit who marched out to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance,” dressed in royal blue graduation gowns, and each received a cap and tassel at the conclusion of the event. The ceremony was to recognize their achievement in graduating from the Offender Work Force Program (OWD), Inside Out Dads, Thinking for a Change, Vocational Education and GED during the past year.

Robert Swanson said he and the other graduates received letters two weeks prior to the graduation, but he was surprised to see the number of staff members and support from others.

As well as the cap and gown, he said.

“It was a total surprise,” Swanson said. “I didn’t expect all this. It’s great that our efforts are being recognized.”

Swanson graduated OWD, which was an interview program to prepare inmates for mock interviews once they exit the prison walls, where they hope never to return.

Numerous graduates were smiling - some with nervous grins - as they entered the visitation room where several faculty members applauded and cheered before handing out certificates once their names were called. One graduate had a little bounce to his step as he gave a slight wiggle and dance once he was given his award.

HCF Warden Sam Cline briefly spoke to the graduates to conclude the ceremony and offer further congratulations.

“We know what prison has been and its perception, but we don’t talk enough about what it can be,” Cline said. “It’s an accomplishment. We want you to have a good life. We want fewer men in prison.”

A second graduation was held at the Central Unit, where 175 inmates successfully completed the programs.

Originally Published: October 22, 2015. Reprinted with permission.
Story by Kelton Brooks, The Hutchinson News. Photos by Jacob Byk, The Hutchinson News.

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