By Lt. Gregory R. Bergersen

Administrative Assistant/PIO, Valley State Prison

Valley State Prison has held its first graduation ceremony since being converted into a prison for men last January, granting diplomas and certificates for GED or vocational training to 125 inmates on Nov. 6.

In addition to 100 GEDs, 25 inmates earned vocational certificates, one received his high school diploma and another received an Associate of Arts degree from Lassen Community College.

“The majority of inmates at Valley State Prison want to program,” contended Warden Ron Davis.  “Many of them are tired of the negative lifestyle that landed them in prison and want to take steps to correct that behavior.”

Inmate graduate Raul Reyes recalled how his high school education was derailed while the family of five lived in their Ford Bronco.

“We moved a lot, so I dropped out of high school,” said Reyes.  “When I was arrested, I knew I had to get an education to find a good job.  I asked to be put in education so I could get my GED.  I never gave up and I hope to use my degree when I parole in January.”

Inmate graduate Mychal Woods said that his vocational class in electronics challenged him to learn something new.

“I thought it was going to be too hard, but Mr. Lewis, the instructor, took his time and made sure everyone was learning,” he said.  “It was fun to learn something new.”

Valley State Adult School has received the highest level of accreditation from the Western Associations of Schools and Colleges, three consecutive approvals for six years, since it opened in 1995.