Our contributor from San Quentin State Prison, Juan Haines, writes to us that the 2014 graduating class at San Quentin included more than a dozen inmates who received associates degrees, 45 who earned GEDs, and that one inmate, Robert Tyler, got his BA in Business Administration after 20 years of college classes. Here are a few of our favorite quotes that Haines collected during the two-day ceremony.
“I saw education as a chore. It didn’t really hit me until I saw all of my friends graduating. When I saw the prison programs, I saw hope. We have control of what and how we think.” -GED Program Valedictorian Andrew D. Sabatino “My grandkids were happy that I got my GED.” -Marcus D. Chavarria, GED Program Graduate
“It feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Everywhere I go, people would throw [the lack of a high school education] in my face.” -Kenneth Cooksey, 53, GED Program Graduate
“I made it on my first try. This is my first time trying.” -Rodney Baylis, 54, who says it took him four months to earn his GED despite his 3 a.m. work assignment in the kitchen as a line server. Baylis is now on the waiting list for a prison college program.
“Nothing in the world can take the play of persistence.” -Robert Tyler, BA Graduate, quoting Calvin Coolidge
“When I heard about the college program at San Quentin, I wrote a letter to get in. This achievement is for you, mom.” -Aly Tamboura, Associate’s Degree Valedictorian
“I’ve walked in those hard brown shoes, those tennis shoes, that CDCR shirt. That’s not you. They do not define you. Freedom goes in steps. You’ve made a part of freedom. Keep taking those steps.” -Patrick Mims, Prison University Project Alumnus
“I work in the most active rehabilitative place in the United States, in the world. For those of you continuing your education, I commend you. We can never over-educate ourselves. Education is the great equalizer.” -Associate Warden Steve Albritton