Inmates at the Alachua County Jail Are Using Their "Time" Wisely
In the last four years over 100 inmates have earned their GED's while incarcerated at the Alachua County Jail. Today was "Graduation Day" for four women at the jail who are using their time behind bars to build a better future.
48 year old Renee Rongstadt said, "You can either keep doing what you were doing...or take the opportunities that are given here."
Rongstadt, 23 year old Tamla Gunn, 19 year old Siara Ducker and a fourth woman, who couldn't appear on camera, are graduating today after taking classes and passing their GED test.
Before presenting each woman with her diploma, Sheriff Sadie Darnell said, "Each of you are unique, each of you have your strengths, each of you is a success story and I am so proud to be here to honor you."
GED Teacher, Leanne Lawrence said, "They come with nothing and they leave with everything." Lawrence has been a GED teacher in jails around the country for 20 years and is in charge of all GED classes at the Alachua County Jail. She said learning comes naturally once her students have confidence that they can succeed. She said, "Yes you're smart. Yes you're beautiful. Yes you are an inspiration to your family, so off you go!"
Lawrence's students said she is one of the main reasons they were able to reach this milestone. Rongstadt said, "She has been an inspiration, I mean with the education...she even cares how we feel..."
The graduates said that the experience has been life changing.
Tamla Gunn said, "It means a lot...I'm speechless really, I don't have...I really can't explain the feelings that I feel right now, I'm just excited."
As these women and dozens of others like them earn their diplomas and prepare for release, they have dreams they never knew were possible.
Siara Ducker said, "It's really a positive experience for me being incarcerated because I've changed my whole life around and I have something to show for it to show my kids that I did it."
And these three women, who each plan to attend college, can now be an inspiration too.
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