On Feb. 23, the SCI Chester Education Department hosted the 2020 inmate graduation in a hybrid fashion.
Despite the pandemic, the Education Department vowed to celebrate and recognize their 46 graduates who earned diplomas and certifications. The Education Department, with the assistance of several departments and administration, had to be creative in an effort to provide a "real" graduation while adhering to cohort and safety guidelines.
The graduation was a hybrid of pre-recorded congratulatory videos from community partners including Widener University, Eastern University, Petey Greene Tutoring, Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC) of Eastern Pennsylvania, staff and the graduate valedictorian and salutatorian, as well as the keynote speakers' speeches.
Live speeches were given by Superintendent Kenneth Eason and Principal Taneisha Spall.
Graduates were cheered and celebrated down Chester's Main Street by staff from all departments. Staff waved congratulatory signs and pom-poms as the graduates walked—and some even danced. The graduates walked to the chapel by cohorts from the housing units to receive their recognition for their hard work and determination. The entire celebration was shown live through the institution's inmate channel. The graduates received their tassel, a special dinner sponsored by the IIO and baked treats from Culinary Services to eat on the housing unit, as well as two pictures taken by the Activities department to commemorate their special day. The entire celebration was possible through teamwork by Chester's dedicated staff.
The Chester Inmate AV crew was also instrumental in this event as they ran the cameras and broadcast the live event on the inmate channel throughout the facilities. The crew—which is known throughout the agency and has been called on to help Central Office with projects in the past—interspersed the prerecorded speeches with the live event so all inmates could watch it while staying safe and following COVID-19 protocols.
This was a celebration of the graduates' achievements throughout a difficult year as well as a celebration of resilience, perseverance and hope.