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California Men's Colony will celebrate its first college graduation with family present in 2020



The California Men's Colony and the Central Coast Adult School are gearing up for their first college graduation ceremony, which will include two family members for each student.

"We've done GED and vocational graduations before, but this is the first time we're doing a college-only graduation. It's going to be a special event because the students will have family there supporting them," said Joshua Henderson, a proctor for the college programs at the Men's Colony.

NEXT STEPS 40 inmates from the California Men's Colony will participate in the facility's first college graduation, which will include graduates' family members. - IMAGE COURTESY OF THE CALIFORNIA MEN'S COLONY
  • Image Courtesy Of The California Men's Colony
  • NEXT STEPS 40 inmates from the California Men's Colony will participate in the facility's first college graduation, which will include graduates' family members.

Graduation ceremonies are slated for March 27, 2020, for the East Facility and April 17, 2020, for the West Facility.

There are about 60 individuals between the two facilities who have gotten their associate degree, but only 40 will attend the ceremonies. Henderson said the 20 people who won't be present have either been paroled or transferred to another institution.

Henderson said there are two kinds of college programs for the inmates to choose from: correspondence and face-to-face classes.

Through the correspondence program, participating colleges send assignments—homework or essays—by mailing or emailing the documents to the proctors at the Men's Colony.

As one of the 20 proctors for the program, Henderson said he prints the documents or hands the documents out to the right student. He, along with the other proctors, administers tests, helps students with questions they may have, and provides a space next to the library where students can study.

That workspace also has computers for the students to type their essays, calculators, and other necessary tools to work on their assignments. The students don't have internet access, so when they work on research papers, the students can submit requests to the librarians for copies of articles.

Universities and colleges that participate in the correspondence program include Palo Verde College, Coastline College, Lassen Community College, Feather River College, and Adams State University in Alamosa, Colorado.

The other educational option is face-to-face classes. In partnership with Cuesta College, Henderson said, the California Men's Colony has the largest enrollment in the state. Through the partnership, there are currently 31 classes offered to the inmates.

Students can earn associate degrees in human development or liberal arts; an Associate in Arts in Sociology for Transfer degree; and certifications in addiction studies and culinary studies.

Henderson said a lot of men participate in the face-to-face classes because the proctors and professors are there to answer questions and guide students in their studies. The students also have access to their professors for tutoring in classes like math and astronomy.

"It makes them feel, for lack of a better term, normal. They get normal interactions that you get in a classroom with classmates and professors," he said.

Students in the correspondence program don't get the extra help from professors. However, Henderson said, this program is beneficial for inmates who don't have time to attend face-to-face classes. These individuals usually work, have multiple jobs, or attend self-help groups.

Either way, when the students finish their time at the Men's Colony, Henderson said, students have their associate degrees, and some obtain credits that are transferable to a four-year college.

"Really our goal is to try to help them change, and part of that is through education so that when they do get out and get that second chance, they succeed," he said.

Fast fact

Smart Share Housing Solutions ended 2019 on a positive note. With the help of nearly 100 volunteers and more than 30 partner organizations, it held its very first Tiny Footprint, Tiny House & Net Zero Expo last October. The three-day event had more than 6,000 visitors. Mark your calendars as the nonprofit has scheduled its next expo for Oct. 9 to 11, 2020. Smart Share Housing Solutions is a nonprofit that launched the HomeShareSLO and Tiny House Consulting programs last year. Tiny House Consulting was created to educate the community about new housing options. In December, HomeShareSLO, a housemate matching service, served its 101st client with housing. Visit for more information. Δ

Staff Writer Karen Garcia wrote this week's Strokes and Plugs. Send tidbits to

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