Ontario, Oregon — Seated in the visitors center at Snake River Correctional Institution, Angelica Carrasco, face split by a wide grin, craned her neck to search for one face in the crowd of blue-clad men in the back of the room. She waved when she caught her son’s eye, and 33-year-old inmate Pascual Julio-Carrasco smiled and waved back as Pomp and Circumstance began to play and he joined his peers in their graduation procession.
Julio-Carrasco was one of nearly 100 inmates who graduated from Treasure Valley Community College programs at the Ontario prison on Monday.
Snake River Correctional Institution
“I feel very emotional, very proud,” his mother said, adding that his graduation would set an example for Julio-Carrasco’s 4-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son. “I know they feel very proud also,” she said.
More than 80 inmates, including Julio-Carrasco, graduated from SRCI’s GED program. Another 13 graduated from the building construction technology program, which allows inmates to create wood products like custom furniture to sell. Many of the graduates made speeches, thanking their teachers, family and loved ones who had packed the room to see the ceremony.
“I really don’t know how to put it into words,” Julio-Carrasco said. “I’m happy, but it’s long overdue. For my kids, now I can tell them I did it so they can do it, too.”
Many of SRCI’s GED graduates plan to pursue higher education in the future, including Larry Rubio, a 21-year-old graduate.
“It’s something I thought I’d never get accomplished,” he said. Rubio plans to apply to culinary schools after he is released from SRCI. Rubio was joined at the ceremony by his younger sister and his mother, Corrina.
“He came in with only three high school credits, so this is a big accomplishment for him,” she said. “Now he can keep going to school. This has really been an opportunity for him to turn things around.”
(First published by The Argus Observer and used here by permission)