In this graduation season, Rhode Island’s two top education officials made it a point Monday morning to attend a recognition ceremony held in an unlikely place — the state prison.
Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist and Higher Education Commissioner Ray Di Pasquale went to the John J. Moran Medium Security Facility to congratulate more than 100 inmates who were enrolled in General Equivalency Degree or college-level classes, and to shake hands with the two dozen men who received degrees of completion.
“The fact that you are here means you have made mistakes along the way and you have had difficulties,” Gist said. “But the fact that you are here means you are lifting yourself above those circumstances. We’ve all made mistakes. You’ve decided to better your education. You’ve made a very important decision.”
It was the first time in memory that prison officials could recall both education officials attending the ceremony. Di Pasquale, who also serves as president of the Community College of Rhode Island, has attended in recent years to confer associates degrees from CCRI.
Monday, he handed out two associates’ degrees and praised the recipients for their persistence. He encouraged the inmates to continue their education to “change your lives for the future.”