A second chance: Partnership between SCDC, CIU yields 12 new graduates

Nearly 170 men and women have taken part in CIU's Prison Initiative

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) —For the last eleven years, the South Carolina Department of Corrections and Columbia International University have teamed up to give inmates a chance to earn a college degree.

On Friday, twelve men at Kirkland Correctional Institution walked across the stage to receive their diplomas. With an Associates of Arts degree, they will serve under parish chaplains and minister to inmates at various correctional institutions across the state.

“They’ve proven themselves to be committed, proven themselves to work hard, study hard, and now they have an opportunity to work underneath chaplains around the state, to minister to their fellow inmates,” said Pastor Andre Melvin, the Director of CIU’s Prison Initiative. 

Through a program funded fully by donors, nearly 170 men and women have achieved their associate’s degrees, all while developing a new lease on life.

“It’s a degree that they’ll have that can’t be taken away from them, and you heard that all the people that left the Department of Corrections with this degree have not come back,” said Bryan Stirling, the SCDC Director.

One graduate says he’s eager to use his degree to make a difference for other inmates across the state.

“Just to go into a dorm and see 100 or 200 men who, a lot of them in a gang or a lot of them are on drugs, and they come into prison missing their family and are locked down all the time, and to influence them in a positive way, that’s hands down the most important part,” he said.

A graduation day is a symbol of achievement, but for one inmate, it shows walls can’t restrain a will to change.

“You can rise above your circumstances, no matter how bad it is, no matter your circumstance may be. There is hope, and you can become a leader in the face of adversity,” the graduate said.

In addition to the twelve receiving their Associate’s Degrees, two former graduates walked across the stage to receive Bachelors of Science degrees.

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