McMinn County Inmates receive GEDs - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

McMinn County Inmates receive GEDs

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Inmates at McMinn County spent three hours a week in a classroom and countless hours alone studying for the biggest test of their lives.

On Tuesday it all paid off, as each of the ten walked away with a sense of accomplishment and pride from receiving their certificate, knowing they now can make a better life for themselves after their time is served.

"I'm so proud of him. I've waited 23 years," said Tonya Brown.

Tears of joy filled this mother's eyes after her son finally earned his GED.

"I told ya I was gonna do it," said Josh King, McMinn County inmate.

It was something Brown says she thought would never happen, because her son, 23-year-old King, has been in and out of jail for nearly 10 years.

"For some of these guys it's the only thing they've ever accomplished," said McMinn County Sheriff Joe Guy. "These guys never had the chance to walk across the stage whether it was circumstance they couldn't overcome or just a bad decision."

For some inmates, like Robert Thompson, this day couldn't come soon enough.

"I feel great. I'm glad. I worked hard for it," said Thompson. He was the oldest in his class, graduating at 54 years old.

"I didn't know I could do it. I made it through alright," said Thompson.

It wasn't easy getting to this point, but King says the hours he put in studying was worth it now that he has something he's proud of to show for it.

"Studying does pay off. If you want it, study for it and you'll get it," said King.

10 graduates are now one step closer to a better life.

"Once you get this education it's something nobody can take from you. It's something they can use, one way or another and I just hope they use it to better their lives to get out of the current situation they're in," said Leslie Travis, Supervisor of Adult Education.

Nationwide, inmates are 60 to 70 percent more likely to return to jail, after being released. But Sheriff Guy says when his inmates participate in this program, they're seeing that number drop down to 20 percent.

Brown says she believes this new found education will be the turning point in her son's life.

"I know this is a new beginning for my son. I love him and always wanted the best for him," said Brown.

King will be released from jail in two weeks and he says he plans to attend college to further his education.

Any of the inmates that complete their GED are then eligible to apply to be jail trustees, which can speed up their process of getting out of jail.

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