WARTBURG, Tenn. (WATE) — Eight inmates in East Tennessee have achieved a first for the state.

The inmates at the Morgan County Correction Complex have been inducted into Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society at Roane State Community College. The inmates are enrolled in an associate’s program at RSCC. They are also the first inmates in Tennessee to be inducted into the honor society according to the TN Department of Correction.

“This is what we work towards every day with the partnerships and programs we have in place. We want to provide opportunities for offenders to change the trajectory of their lives. The eight men we honored today have done just that,” said MCCX Warden Mike Parris.

To qualify for PTK, the men were required to complete at least 12 hours of coursework toward a degree and maintain a 3.5 GPA. Chris Whaley, President of Roane State Community College, added that at least one of the men had a 4.0 GPA. TDOC shared they are all working toward an associate degree in general studies and are on track to graduate in December 2023. PTK is an international honor society of community college students with 578 chapters around the world.

“We are incredibly proud of these students and their achievements,” said Whaley. “This is an incredible accomplishment and should serve as validation for them and the work they have put into their education.”

The men were honored during a special ceremony at the facility on Tuesday. The induction ceremony can be watched here.

The TDOC offers 16 college degree programs across the state. The state uses degree and work education programs to allow people incarcerated to better themselves according to Warden Parris. In fact, the TN Prison Commissioner shared that the true mission of corrections “isn’t just about keeping this one group of people away from the rest of the community or punishing this one group of people, it is about affecting change in their life so they can reenter the community in a different way.”