Prisoners proud to receive diplomas | NevadaAppeal.com

Prisoners proud to receive diplomas

TERI VANCE
Rick Gunn/Nevada Appeal Nevada State Prison inmates listen to the keynote speaker during the 2004 Carson Adult High School and Western Nevada Community College graduation ceremony at the prison. College graduates include (back row from left), Keith Turner, John Stark and Scott Schlingheyde. High school graduates include (front row from left) Ricky Spencer, Joe Soto and Levi Smith.
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It wasn’t Kameron Konold’s first public speaking assignment. But it was his best.

“I’m glad I was asked to speak in front of a group of people and I wasn’t the defendant,” he joked.

As “Pomp and Circumstance” played from a boom box propped on a chair, 10 inmates marched into the visitor’s room of Nevada State Prison on Tuesday to receive their high school diplomas as another eight were awarded college degrees.

Festive banners, reading “Congratulations Graduates” and “Class of 2004,” hung above a permanent sign: “Visitors may be pat searched after leaving restroom.”

Konold’s voice cracked as he told guests of his transformation from a high-school dropout to a college graduate while in prison.

“At first, it was really hard. I didn’t get things. I had to read the same thing over and over again,” he explained. “But then it started getting easier. Every night I couldn’t wait to get home and call my mom to tell her about it.”

His mother, Vicki Brubaker, traveled from Chico, Calif., to share in his success Tuesday afternoon.

“I am so proud. Really, proud doesn’t even cover it,” she said. “This is heaven for me. I always knew he had it in him.”

Ernie McKenzie, adult education director for the Carson City School District, said education helps prevent crimes and deter criminals from reoffending.

“If you look at education as a whole, as it affects the average person just attending school, it reduces crime by 50 percent,” he said. “It reduces drug crimes by 61 percent.

“If they get a degree after they’ve been in prison, they’re less likely to recommit. In fact, of those who get an education in prison, 80 percent of them never return to prison.”

Literacy and English-as-a-second-language programs have also been developed this year.

McKenzie said teaching an inmate to read reduces the recidivism rate by 15 to 20 percent.

Joe Soto, who received his high school diploma, testified to the changing power of education during his address to the nearly 40 guests in attendance.

“I am among men here most richly blessed with wisdom and understanding that no matter what obstacles may come our way, we still can achieve personal growth and become better individuals in our society with education and prayer,” he said. “We must not look mournfully into the past, as it comes not back again.

“Wisely, we must improve the present and go forth to meet a future without fear.”

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Contact Teri Vance at tvance@nevadaappeal.com or at 881-1272.