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Inmates Graduate from NMJC

Inmates Graduate from NMJC photo 12/16/2014 1:21:17 p.m. - Hobbs, NM. [Story courtesy of Jaycie Chesser, Hobbs News-Sun - Friday, December 12, 2014]

Beverly Lewis wiped away tears as she watched the man she calls her son receive his diploma during a graduation ceremony Thursday.

“I knew I should have brought a box of tissues with me,” she said. “I am just so proud of him.”

Elden Lopez, an inmate at the Lea County Correctional Facility and honor graduate, attained his  Associate of Applied Science degree from New Mexico Junior College, made possible by a partnership fostered between the college and LCCF.

“This is something I should have done 20 years ago when I had the opportunity, but it’s never too late,” he said. “I did this for me and it’s a milestone in my life.”

Lopez was one of 12 inmates who graduated Thursday making those individuals the first college graduating class from LCCF.

“It shows the positive that can be done in this kind of setting if we work together both in the prison and with organizations out in the community,” Jeff Wrigley, LCCF warden, said. “It took a lot of effort from these graduates to reach today.”

NMJC President Steve McCleery delivered a speech to graduates before they received their diplomas citing three things they must do as they move forward with their lives.

“Don’t ever stop dreaming,” he said. “Build your life around positive principles and let the moments that define you best be when you rise to the occasion during hard times.”

McCleery said the partnership between LCCF and NMJC began more than a decade ago. However, previously the only graduating students were from the barbering school.

“The associate degree program was made possible through distance learning and other educators onsite at the facility that made these resources available,” he said.

Other graduates were Clifford Dees, honor graduate; Martin Early, honor graduate; Sidney VanZandt, honor graduate; Andrew Adkins, Adrian Chacon, Derrick Ervin, honor graduate, Donovan Houidobre, Ellery James, honor graduate, Jack Renolds, honor graduate, Manuel Vasquez and Jesus Zamarripa, honor graduate.

“This is something I have worked hard for a long time now,” Dees said. “It has finally paid off.”

All of the graduates said they plan to move forward and continue their education by attaining a bachelor’s degree in the future.

“I am getting ready to go home in March, so this is something that will help me,” Early said.

“I am glad that the NMJC and this facility made this opportunity possible for me,” VanZandt said.

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