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Sing-Sing Correctional Facility celebrates graduation day

Caps, gowns, smiles and family. There was nothing out of the ordinary at this college graduation ceremony, except the fact that it took place at Sing-Sing Correctional Facility - a maximum security prison in Ossining.

Emily Young and Julia Burns

Jun 5, 2024, 9:55 PM

Updated 13 days ago

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Caps, gowns, smiles and family. There was nothing out of the ordinary at this college graduation ceremony, except the fact that it took place at Sing-Sing Correctional Facility - a maximum security prison in Ossining.
"There's an assumption that a prison college program is not the same as a college program," explained Sean Pica, the executive director of Hudson Link, the organization that runs the college program in conjunction with Mercy University.
"You have the same work, the same textbook, the same professors that demand so much. The only difference is you don't have the internet, you don't have resources at the library," Pica said.
On Wednesday, 34 men of all ages, graduated with their associate’s or bachelor's degree in behavioral science from Mercy University.
“We supported one another, we motivated one another and we held each other accountable,” said class valedictorian Nigel Francis-Thomas in his speech.
“I think getting to a prison, especially the largest cell block in the country like Sing-Sing, you think your life is over,” explained Pica.
“Education comes from the root words "Educe" which means to bring forth. Using the knowledge that we’re acquiring, we’re bringing forth better versions of ourselves. We are better men, sons, fathers,” said Francis-Thomas.
“If you would've told me in 2024 I would be a college graduate I would say ‘you’re lying’ and ‘I can't believe anything you say!” said graduate Daniel Betancourt.
Within the prison walls, knowledge is power, and it’s literally the difference between living the rest of your life here behind bars or living life as a free man.
"You can see the results of it. People that have gotten an education, they're not coming back. They're outside doing things and taking care of their families, they're actually in great positions," said Francis-Thomas.
So, what is next for these budding scholars?
“For my bachelor’s graduates, I expect to see you in the master’s program with me, for my associate’s degrees, I expect you to continue to move forward and obtain your bachelor’s and also serve as mentors and tutors for the other gentleman,” said Francis-Thomas.


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