ELLSWORTH, Kan. (KWCH) The Ellsworth Correctional Facility houses inmates convicted of serious crimes: rape, murder and child sex crimes.
(Source: Kansas Department of Corrections)
On Tuesday, though, inmates celebrated a milestone and an opportunity to do something better with their lives.
David Marcus doesn't know adult life outside prison. He's been incarcerated since he was 18 years old.
"It took a while for me to get the idea of what I could get out of this," said Marcus.
At the age of 30, he's four years away from his release date and a new outlook on life. With the odds against him, he earned his GED and is one of three inmates who received associate degrees from Barton Community College.
"The welding program and my associate's degree, I think are going to help me tremendously when I get out," said Marcus.
Nicole Serpan is a career advisor at Barton Community College. She says the program is offered with hopes that it prevents inmates from returning to prison.
"We help these guys get vocationally trained and even offer associates in general studies program within the prisons, so whenever they're released they can be contributing members of society," she says.
This year, 145 inmates have graduated with high school diplomas, an industry certificate, or an associate degree this year
Each has his own story.
"I started out in El Dorado. I was there for 16 years," said inmate Tony Hunt.
"I'm an international student. I used to go to college," said inmate Momodou Jallow.
Both earned their associate degrees and all are thankful for this opportunity.
"I just found it incredible to discover all the opportunities provided. with barton, the welding program, the computer classes they offer," said Hunt
"I would like to thank all the people at ECF for allowing Barton to come here and collaborate with them, so they can give us inmates the opportunity to better ourselves and grow," said Jallow.