It’s graduation time at area high schools, universities and……the South Dakota State Penitentiary.
That’s right, inmates, who have been working toward their GED’s while serving time received their high school diplomas Thursday.
For the past year, over 200 prison inmates have completed the requirements to earn their GEDs and some of them got to participate in graduation ceremonies Thursday behind prison walls where family, friends and prison staff gathered to celebrate the graduating class of 2019.
Dressed in caps and gowns, 27 inmates lined up and walked in for commencement ceremonies.
“It feels not real, but it’s real, it’s still setting in,” Anthony Keeble said.
21-year-old Anthony Keeble has served three years in prison for grand theft. But when he gets out next week, he’ll leave with a high school diploma.
“It means a lot, I’m one of the few in my family that’s graduating, I mean, it may only be a GED, but it’s still graduating,” Keeble said.
Keeble says he already has a job lined up at the Empire Mall working maintenance.
22-year-old Sage Hard Heart is another graduate.
He’s serving time for robbery and only has 10 months left to serve.
A lot of the graduates feel earning their diplomas in here, means more to them now, than if they had graduated with their high school friends.
Because they say when you’re locked up, your goals change.
“This means a lot to me, it was my sister’s dream to get my high school diploma or GED or some type of education, so that really was what got me motivated to get my GED the most,” Hard Heart.
The prison says holding a commencement celebration like this is important.
“A lot of these guys have had a lot of disappointing days in their lives and their families have stood by them and supported them and have been through the tears and a lot of difficult days and difficult events,” Warden Darin Young said.
But Thursday, they can all be proud.
“They’ve actually accomplished something today that nobody can take away from them they earned it and they worked hard at it,” Young said.
The cap and gowns they wore Thursday were donated by Brandon Valley High School.