Feeling proud

Published 6:25 am Wednesday, March 31, 2004

By By MARCIA STEFFENS / Edwardsbusg Argus
CASSOPOLIS -- Their teacher couldn't have been prouder. The three new graduates may not have been in caps and gowns, but their diplomas were real and will be a great help when they return to their homes and seek work, said Capt. Richard Affriseo during Thursday's graduation at the Cass County Jail.
The inmates of the jail graduated after completing class work through the adult education program of the Cassopolis Public Schools.
Helene Hoover, who teaches the variety of classes the students need to compete their credits, had 23 students one day last week and nine women showed up for one morning class.
Brightly colored certificates hang on the wall after each class is completed. "The students love to come in and see their certificate," said Hoover.
Unlike high school where the teacher assigns work to be completed by a certain day, Hoover's students work at their own pace. "It's harder," said Hoover, "they have to be self-motivated."
Capt. Affriseo, jail administrator, told them they "should be proud. It doesn't matter where you get it," only that they did graduate. He said job opportunities will come now that they "took the time and effort. They have done something positive with their life."
Those who attend the classes, he added, have "done something positive with their life and don't give the staff any problems. This is the first step in your new life, if you want it to be.
Rhonda Schadler, who is director of the Cassopolis Adult Education program, said some may be eligible for scholarships to Southwestern Michigan College (SMC).
Ryan Parsons, formerly of Edwardsburg, hopes to attend SMC when he returns to his home in Mishawaka, Ind. He had dropped out of high school in the 11th grade.
Kim Nelson of Edwardsburg, who was living on her own, dropped out when she learned she could get a GED certificate, and she had already been accepted to college. Later she learned college was harder and wasn't cheap.
When she decided to get her diploma, she said "I didn't realize I was that close. I could kick myself now."
Her son, who is in first grade, is excited that his mom was also in school. She helps him with his work by writing to him.
Originally she had studied to be a medical assistant, but believes she can make more money working in a factory.
Andre Murff II of Dowagiac, the third graduate, had been working at the Cass County Council on Aging when he was called back by Capt. Affriseo to "celebrate his big day." He also hopes to attend SMC.