Dec 16, 2010 10:14 AM by Nichole Larkey

Inmates working towards degrees

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) - Antonio Pulliam dropped out of high school at age 17 after his second attempt to complete his freshman year. It took him another five years - along with two arrests - to decide
he needed to finish his high school education.
"It took me getting in trouble to come to this program and leaving drugs alone," said Pulliam, 22, one of 79 graduates this year of the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center's GED program.
The program is offered to inmates at the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center and to those sentenced to jail diversion programs at the Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office Community Corrections Campus.
The campus houses several programs that are alternatives to incarceration, such as day reporting, GPS tracking of offenders and work release.
This year's 79 graduates of the GED programs are close to double the 40 people who last year earned their diplomas after passing the test through the program, said Carin Wilson, lead teacher of the
program at the Community Corrections Campus.
More than half the graduates attend the GED program at the corrections campus, where last year 22 people earned their diplomas. So far this year, 43 have done the same at the center and more graduates are expected before the end of the year, Wilson
Wilson attributes the increase in graduates to a change in instruction that focuses on daily goal setting and progress reporting.
"It's a foolproof method," she said.
Wilson taught eight years in both public and private high schools before moving to the campus about a year and a half ago.
"This is the best job I've ever had," she said. "I'm rewarded every second of every day. I know I'm making a difference in their lives. I've taught adults how to read who couldn't read before."
New clients are evaluated to determine their reading level and academic strengths and weaknesses. That evaluation determines the client's "prescription" for learning - specialized instruction to
target areas needing improvement, Wilson said. Teachers set and chart daily goals for the students.
"We show them how to work toward their goal," she said.
Pulliam said he was sentenced to the Community Corrections Campus' day reporting program for a year for violating his probation. He was convicted of simple property damage. In his eight month, he earned his high school equivalency diploma, crediting his
late mother as his inspiration for fulfilling her wish for him to finish high school.
He also credits the teachers.
"They actually cared about us getting our GED," Pulliam said. "They rode us to get our GED."
He completes his sentence in two months and said he's received job offers and is considering continuing his education.
Wilson said teachers also provide assistance with applications to Acadiana Technical College, South Louisiana Community College and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
The GED program is voluntary for those incarcerated in the parish jail. Attendance in the campus program is mandatory for
those without a high school diploma, Wilson said.
Those who still cannot obtain their diplomas get some benefit from the program, she said.
Wilson said she taught one 45-year-old man who started the program able to read fewer than 10 words.
"He left reading on a seventh-grade level," she said. "That's huge."
The parish spends about $174,000 annually for both programs, providing five teachers at the Corrections Campus and three at the jail, officials said.


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