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NECC presents certificate of valor to offender

Posted on Thursday, August 31, 2023 at 9:50 am

Families fill visitor’s area for graduation ceremony

By Stan Schwartz

It was a day of rejoicing for more than 50 men housed at the Northeast Correctional Center last Tuesday as some received degrees from Ashland University and others received their high school equivalency diplomas.
Warden Clay Stanton, who officially became the warden in early July, said he was inspired by what these men accomplished while incarcerated at the facility.
He wanted everyone to know that they are moving forward and NECC wants to help those who are doing time achieve more to help them for when they are eventually released.
During the ceremony, Stanton took note of one of the graduates, Johnathan Young. Just a few weeks ago, he intervened on behalf of a female corrections officer who was being assaulted by another offender. Young stopped the attack and prevented further harm to the CO.
Stanton, said, he had no doubt that had Young not intervened to stop the violent attack; the corrections officer could have died.
The corrections officer, who was standing there with Stanton with tears in her eyes, agreed with the warden’s assessment of the situation.
“I guarantee you she would not be standing right here beside me today if this wasn’t accomplished,” he said.
“It was something that took a lot of courage on his part because that is a tough situation,” Stanton said. But Young did the right thing. He wanted to acknowledge the bravery and fortitude of the offender for stepping forward and putting himself in harm’s way to protect the CO.
Stanton said he could not elaborate on the incident because the offender who perpetrated the assault was going to be prosecuted for the offense.
It’s important for the community to know, Stanton explained, that they are working to turn around the lives of the men being housed at the facility.
To a room full of applause, Young stepped forward to receive his certificate of valor.
“From the bottom of my heart, I appreciate what you did,” he said as he handed over the certificate. “You probably saved a life that day.”
In addition to the college level courses and the high school equivalency program, NECC also offers a Career Center to provide training in various skills.
These programs, Stanton said, give the offenders a better chance once they are released. Those with skills and education have a better chance at becoming productive members of society. Having these programs, he noted, also reduces recidivism.
Dressed in green graduation robes, the men came forward to receive their diplomas in front of their families, who were there for the ceremony.
“We’re always moving forward,” Stanton said. That was one of the reasons he wanted the media present for the graduation ceremony and the awarding of the valor certificate. He wanted the community to know what they’re doing behind those walls to help the offenders and the community. NECC is the largest employer in the Bowling Green area.
According to their website, “Ashland University partners with state Departments of Corrections and local jails to deliver a transformative educational experience that brings hope to students in the correctional environment. We value the opportunity to serve these students and recognize that none of this would be possible without the continuing participation of our students, their families, correctional partners and our staff.”
Associate State Director William Carney, who spoke during the ceremony, said Ashland University operates in 13 states and at various correctional institutions across Missouri, providing high education opportunities to those incarcerated.
“Since the program got started nationwide,” he said, “we’ve had 1,216 graduates getting their associates, and 198 getting their bachelor’s degree.”
Since operating in Missouri, he added, they’ve had graduations at every site where they offer degree programs.
“Missouri has usually got the largest number of students in the program,” he said. “And that incudes states like Georgia, Ohio and Louisiana.” In Missouri, to date, 116 associate’s degrees have been awarded and 23 bachelor’s degrees awarded,” Carney added. “The word I would leave you with is perseverance,” he said. When this group of graduates started in the program, Ashley did not have a site director, but the students continued to study and work toward their degrees.
“That’s a testament to you all,” he said, to “your perseverance, and your self-discipline.” And even though they are college graduates, he implored them to continue striving for more.
Stanton echoed Carney’s statement, telling the students that accomplished this and that means they can accomplish more.
“Strive to do better,” he said. “We want to give you the tools for you to succeed. As the warden, I’m proud of you. You’ve taken your time and used it wisely.”