Bridging the Gap: GED program raising the bar high for inmates

Bridging the Gap

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — More inmates than you may realize never graduated from high school. The Roger D. Wilson  Detention Facility in Knox County has a GED program called “High Set” and it’s working: 29 inmates have graduated this year, which is remarkable, since there is only one volunteer instructor.

Rob Hanson spends 16 hours a week teaching a class of around 10 inmates, all with varying degrees of educational experience.

“Some dropped out a month or so shy of high school and I have students who never got past second or third grade; and that’s a real challenge,” Hanson said.

Bruno Matthews, 19, just completed the program earning a high school diploma he wishes he had received a year ago.

“Instead of going to school, I was going to work, then going to work more than school, then me meddling around with weed, smoking it then selling what I could on the side to make enough money to make ends meet,” Matthews said. “And then that ended up with me getting into situations I didn’t need to be in and this is my third time in jail on drug related charges before I’m 20.”

Matthews is fortunate. The classes in the High Set program have a wait list of 100 inmates, men and women, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office wants to help, but with one instructor and a small class size, that’s not going to happen without more volunteers.

“If we can have volunteers or teachers coming in, mentors, if they can volunteer some time to come in, we can have some great success and graduate, I’m hoping, 100,” Assistant Chief Steve Bravo said.

In the meantime, each graduate is celebrated one at a time. Bruno Matthews’ took his turn recently to proudly put on the cap and gown for an impromptu high school graduation ceremony complete with cheers from his classmates.

Matthews says this program is just one that’s provided an education in how to live his best life.

“Don’t surround yourself by people who are not going anywhere in life or don’t have many ambitions and stuff because everybody has an ability to achieve something great,” Matthews said.

If you’re a retired teacher or if you’d like to be a tutor, contact the Knox County Sheriff’s Office emailing programs@knoxsheriff.org.

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