Graduation days are celebrations of hard work expended and the future opportunities that have been earned. They are a chance to look back on what it took to get there, as well as to look forward to what lies ahead. And many thanks are offered to those who helped along the way.
Graduates across the state are sharing that experience this spring, but three young men earned a bit of extra recognition at their graduation ceremony. Three graduates of Barton Community College were praised by Gov. Sam Brownback for their accomplishments in particular, because just a few months ago, they were each serving time in one of Kansas’ correctional institutions.
The road to graduation took some challenging turns for Christopher Erker and Zachery Best, who were recently released from Ellsworth Correctional Facility, and for Dustin Myers, formerly a resident of Larned Juvenile Correctional Facility.
Gov. Brownback provided the commencement address at BCC last Friday. During his address, he specifically mentioned that former offenders were among the graduates. The governor met with the three men after the ceremony to offer his words of encouragement.
“Congratulations to these men for the effort they put forth to better their lives and to prepare themselves for success in the future,” said Brownback following the ceremony. “The goal of the Department of Corrections is not only to provide for public safety, but to help set individuals like these three men on a different course. For them to receive these degrees speaks to the potential for all offenders.”
Each of the graduates seized upon opportunities offered within the correctional facilities to begin their college education. All three paid their college tuition fees. This was done through using wages earned in facility industry programs or with family assistance.
The college provided the following summary of each the men’s path to graduation:
• Christopher Erker began his Associate of General Studies at Ellsworth Correctional Facility. He was released in August and spent the spring 2013 semester living in the dorms and attending class full-time. He completed 19 hours this semester – three of which were through Bartonline and the other 16 face-to-face on the Great Bend campus. He graduated with his Associate in General Studies. He plans to attend K-State at Salina and complete his bachelor’s degree in construction engineering.
• Zachery Best began his Associate of General Studies at Ellsworth Correctional Facility. He was released in August and began attending Sterling College. He completed his last three credit hours with Barton to receive his degree. He plans to continue his studies at Sterling College and receive a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
• Dustin Myers began his college coursework at Larned Juvenile Correctional Facility. He has been living on campus and attending class during both the fall 2012 and spring 2013 semester, and graduated with an Associate of Science in Business. He plans to take a year off school to work. He has a business building custom motorcycles. After his year off to accumulate funds, he plans to attend Washburn University.