13 inmates at Greene Correctional get college degrees

COXSACKIE, N.Y. – History was made this month at Greene Correctional Facility, which held its first-ever college commencement ceremony through the Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison program and Columbia-Greene Community College.

Thirteen degrees were conferred to the Greene Correctional Class of 2019 on Thursday, Jan. 17, including to Class Valedictorian Terrance*, who served as one of many speakers at the ceremony and reflected on his own educational journey.

“When I enrolled in the Hudson Link college program, I did so with the hope of furthering my education,” he said. “I believed college was the most constructive way to utilize my time. …Through my studies, I became aware of my capabilities along with my limitations.”

C-GCC first partnered with Hudson Link – a non-profit organization founded in 1998 to provide college education, life skills, and re-entry support to incarcerated individuals – in 2017, offering courses meet the Liberal Arts and program requirements of the college’s Individual Studies Associate of Science degree.

Incarcerated men at Greene Correctional hoping to enroll in the program must meet a set of prescribed criteria from Hudson Link and the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS), and in turn, C-GCC faculty must meet the same educational and professional requirements as those teaching on campus.

Dawn DeFino LMHC, for instance, associate professor of Human Services at C-GCC, has taught both well-heeled subjects at the facility such as psychology and brand-new courses including an Addiction Recovery Theory and Practice class launched in Fall 2018.

“These are the exact courses taught at C-GCC,” she said, “and the students’ dedication to their studies at Greene is infectious. It encourages me to, at the very least, teach at my best.”

The commencement ceremony – also known at Hudson Link as a “recommencement” – was attended by the graduates’ families and representatives from Hudson Link, DOCCS, and Greene Correctional, as well as members of the C-GCC faculty and administration, community supporters of the program, and classmates still preparing for their own graduation day.

The Greene Correctional Class of 2019 joins more than 600 graduates who’ve earned their degrees through the Hudson Link Higher Education in Prison program in the last 20 years, through partnerships with nine colleges and six correctional facilities.

“Please allow graduates to serve as testaments of social reform gained though informative means,” concluded Terrance. “Together we can build a path that leads to success and a much brighter future.”

For more information, visit HudsonLink.org or SUNYcgcc.edu.

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