Eight graduate at jail

Published 10:24 pm Thursday, December 1, 2016

Justin Satterwhite obtained his GED earlier than he was supposed to graduate high school.

John Rice had to drop out of high school to work, he said, but never gave up on the dream of getting a GED.

Deangelo Hyman and Brandon Stephens are such good friends that Hyman signed Stephens up for the GED class without his knowledge, and then they graduated together.

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Those are the inspiring stories of four inmates at Western Tidewater Regional Jail, who received their general education diplomas during a ceremony Wednesday morning.

It was the first graduation in a long time for the jail, because a change to a computer-based GED test took longer than anticipated.

“I’m extremely happy that you all made it,” jail Education Director Ronnie Sharpe of the graduates.

In addition to the four inmates who earned their GED, two who earned career readiness certificates and two trusties who earned the recognition of outstanding performance of their duties were recognized.

In turn, the graduates recognized those who helped them get their GED. They included Sharpe, as well as teachers Marie Evans and Esther Harrell.

“You really taught me how to do algebraic equations,” Stephens said to Evans during his remarks at the ceremony, which was attended by about two dozen jail staff.

Stephens said Hyman, his friend, signed him up for the class.

“Once I got into the class, I kind of liked it,” he said. “That’s a good friend.”

Hyman said he signed Stephens up because that’s what you do for friends — and they had time on their hands, so why not?

“I always want to see my friends do better, and I wanted to further my education as well,” Hyman said.

After he is released, Hyman hopes to further his education, learn some new languages and perhaps start a career as a truck driver.

Satterwhite said he appreciated being allowed into the class, even though he is a juvenile.

“Without them, we wouldn’t be here right now,” Satterwhite said.

In the future, he hopes to go to college and start a career, perhaps in welding — “just anything that’s constructive,” he said. “I want to achieve something in my life.”

Rice also said he’s considering a welding career, or maybe one in billing and coding.

“When the opportunity presented itself, I figure it would be a good opportunity to take advantage of,” Rice said of why he decided to take the class.

Jail Superintendent William C. Smith also congratulated the graduates, noting that many outside of jail never obtain a GED.

“You being able to accomplish what you did is a great success,” he said, noting that the students had to study in the block amid a lot of noise and activity. “You don’t have an environment that’s conducive to learning.”

Also honored at the ceremony were Jamir Avante and Damontre Lee-Smith, for obtaining career readiness certificates, and Jordan Kerry Hawkins and Larry Junior Wood, for outstanding performance of their trusty duties.

“You have demonstrated that you are good at what you do and excellence in your work habits,” Sharpe said.