Submitted by Lt. W. Fonseca
Written by J. Barnes
COVID-19 could not stop the acknowledgment of so much growth at Salinas Valley State Prison (SVSP). For those students graduating in 2020, ceremonies needed to be adjusted to ensure health guidelines were followed.
However, even though their families were unable to witness the event, the students were still celebrated by Warden Matthew Atchley, Chief Deputy Warden Tristan Lemon, the Associate Wardens, the Captains from each yard, Dr. Sandra Ahmann, Assistant Principals Farmer and Farley and the entire educational staff.
While maintaining physical distancing, students, one at a time, walked through the education buildings on their respective facilities. The graduates were acknowledged and received their certificate or diploma as the staff cheered them on.
This round of commencements did not lack in proud achievements. All students and staff wore the required face coverings and sat or stood six or more feet apart during each ceremony.
The most robust of all the programs at SVSP is the GED/High School Equivalency Certificate program. During this round of graduations, 40 students received certificates on their individual facilities.
A final and substantial achievement for SVSP was the establishment of the Certificate of Attendance and Participation (C.A.P.) program and its very first graduate. The C.A.P. was designed as an opportunity for those students classified as developmentally disabled to complete high school requirements in a traditional way. The C.A.P. program has proven those students can complete a modified educational program and have the opportunity to move on to vocational skills programs.
Graduation ceremonies are a clear demonstration of an institution’s rehabilitation in action. It is important for not only the graduates but also the other inmates to see the celebration of these accomplishments even if everyone in attendance is wearing a protective face covering while doing it.
SVSP has enjoyed successful circumstances during the COVID-19 pandemic, which would not have been possible without the strong leadership of Warden Atchley, the Captains on each facility and our educational leader Dr. Sandra Ahmann.