Asnuntuck Community College (ACC), held its second commencement ceremony for its Second Chance graduates. Asnuntuck, in 2016 began to offer a variety of certificate programs to 308 incarcerated individuals as part of a federal pilot program known as “Second Chance Pell.” Asnuntuck was one of sixty-seven schools selected nationwide by the White House to participate. This initiative seeks to equip inmates with job skills necessary to become contributing members of society upon their release. The program provides federally funded Pell Grants to eligible incarcerated students who are close to completing their sentences.

Asnuntuck provided instruction at its Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center (AMTC), in Enfield, as well as at the MacDougall, Osborn, Robinson and Willard Cybulski correctional facilities in the disciplines of Business Administration, Human Services Management and Advanced Manufacturing Technology.

Funded through Federal Pell dollars earmarked for this population, it does not take away resources from Connecticut students.

Asnuntuck is one of four community colleges within the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system to participate in the Second Chance Pell Program. 

Governor Dannel P. Malloy; Department of Correction Commissioner Scott Semple; Warden John Tarascio, Dr.  James Lombella, President of Asnuntuck Community College, Connecticut State Colleges and Universities President Mark Ojakian, Mary Bidwell, Associate Dean for the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center and Class Speakers Robert Pratt and Richard Dudley were among the speakers for the ceremony. Additional representatives from Asnuntuck, and the Department of Correction joined members of the inmates’ families for the ceremony.

Six inmates received a certificate in Advanced Machine Technology at the Willard-Cybulski Reintegration Center. Four other graduates attended Asnuntuck’s Commencement Ceremony at Symphony Hall in Springfield on May 24th. Six graduates were inducted into the Alpha Lambda Zeta Chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

“This is an accomplishment that no one can take away from you,” the Commissioner told the graduates. “This is the first step to a rewarding job and the life you want.” He added, “Today we celebrate education.”

Commissioner Semple applauded Governor Malloy’s commitment to lowering recidivism, telling the group that the Governor had made 25 visits to correctional facilities in the State since he had become Commissioner. “You are proving to yourself that you have what it takes to be successful,” the Governor told the graduates. “This is the most meaningful graduation I have attended.” He told the graduates that there are thousands of unfilled manufacturing jobs, which are now available to them.

Warden Tarascio addressed his remarks to the families of the graduates. “Thank you for not giving up on your loved ones.” President Ojakian echoed that sentiment and had a message for the graduates. He said his words to them were the same ones he shares with other graduates throughout the State. “From today on this is your journey-embrace the journey.”

Pratt, who received his diploma last month at Symphony Hall, and had a job interview scheduled for the next day, addressed the group. His parents travelled from South Carolina to be at his graduation in May. He had served 26 years in a correctional facility. Now living in a halfway house, the graduate said, “This is the proudest moment in my life.” He said that the work needed to earn the certificate was challenging, but the two-hour bus ride to get from the house to the college provided additional time to devote to homework. He said the teachers’ support helped them all get through it.

 

Dudley, who spoke about what each of his classmates did to help their fellow classmates, said that this opportunity is allowing all of them to rewrite the narrative of their lives.

 

Bidwell reminded the students of the college’s commitment to them. “We are here for you and care about your future.” She added, “You are part of the Asnuntuck Alumni family.”