LARNED — When Blake Flury was 11 years old, he dropped out of school when his mother passed away.
He found himself thrust into the role of family provider. Without formal education and other influences to guide his decisions, he eventually found himself incarcerated in 2011 with a release date of 2018. He also has a wife and children at home, awaiting his release.
His story is one of circumstance; of rough times and bad luck, not innate poor character as the stereotype of an inmate would suggest. And, his story is not uncommon. 2.3 million Americans are behind bars, leaving 1.7 million children at home with at least one incarcerated parent.
Thanks to Barton Community College’s Building Academic Skills In Correctional Settings program, his story is being rewritten along with dozens of other inmates taking advantage of Barton’s offerings in the prison system.
Flury received his high school diploma Thursday afternoon at a learning celebration at Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility (LCMHF). His next step is to complete an automotive technology program and become a mechanic.
Flury’s sister encouraged him to give it a try.
“She’s proud of me,” he said. “That’s a lot for me to say. She isn’t too proud of most of the things I’ve done in my life. This really boosted my confidence. I didn’t think I was really smart enough to get it.”
Six of his classmates also passed the GED and dozens of others received industry certificates such as manufacturing skills, introductory craft skills and work ready, among others.
Barton Community College has partnered with both LCMHF and Ellsworth Correctional Facility to bring educational opportunities to inmates. Tuition and fees are funded either by the families of inmates or private donations from citizens who have recognized the program’s significant benefits to society.
For more information on the Barton BASICS program, visit bartonccc.edu/breakthecycle