Forging their own new path

The inaugural Greene Correctional Facility Class of 2019 and guests at the commencement ceremony. (Photos: Columbia-Greene Community College/Hudson Link)

More than 600 graduates have earned their degrees through the Hudson Link Higher Education in Prison program over the last 20 years, through partnerships with nine colleges and six correctional facilities.

During anevent at Greene Correctional Facility in Coxsackie, New York, 13 incarcerated men added their names to that roster, as they accepted their degrees from Hudson Link and Columbia-Greene Community College (C-GCC) in Hudson, New York.

Degrees were conferred to the inaugural Greene Correctional Class of 2019, including to class valedictorian Terrance (last name withheld), who spoke at the ceremony and reflected on his own educational journey.

“When I enrolled in the Hudson Link college program, I did so with the hope of furthering my education,” he said. “I believed college was the most constructive way to utilize my time. …Through my studies, I became aware of my capabilities along with my limitations.”

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C-GCC first partnered with Hudson Link – a non-profit organization founded in 1998 to provide college education, life skills and re-entry support to incarcerated individuals – in 2017, offering courses that meet the liberal arts and program requirements of the college’s individual studies associate of science degree.

Incarcerated men at Greene Correctional hoping to enroll in the program must meet a set of prescribed criteria from Hudson Link and the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS), and in turn, C-GCC faculty must meet the same educational and professional requirements as those teaching on campus.

Dawn DeFino, associate professor of human services at C-GCC, has taught both well-heeled subjects at the facility such as psychology and brand-new courses, including an addiction recovery theory and Practice class launched this fall.

“These are the exact courses taught at C-GCC,” she said, “and the students’ dedication to their studies at Greene is infectious. It encourages me to, at the very least, teach at my best.”

An inmate receives a C-GCC degree through the Hudson Link Higher Education in Prison program.

The commencement ceremony – also known at Hudson Link as a “recommencement” – was attended by the graduates’ families and representatives from Hudson Link, DOCCS and Greene Correctional, as well as members of the C-GCC faculty and administration, community supporters of the program, and classmates still preparing for their own graduation day.

“Please allow graduates to serve as testaments of social reform gained though informative means,” Terrance concluded. “Together we can build a path that leads to success and a much brighter future.”

About the Author

Jaclyn Stevenson
is director of public relations at Columbia-Greene Community College in New York.