Auburn Prisoners Trade Prison Clothes for Caps and Gowns for a Day

June 5, 2012

Auburn (WSYR-TV) – Lots of students face hurdles on theirway to a college diploma, but few face the challenge that prison presents.On Tuesday, 15 men at the maximum security AuburnCorrectional Facility earned their associates’ degrees, temporarily tradingtheir prison uniforms for caps and gowns.The inmates earned Cornell credits while working toward adegree awarded by Cayuga Community College.“You can make a choice to be part of the system and let itshape you, or you can actually turn that on its head and shape yourself andturn the rest of the system,” said degree recipient, Gary LaRocca.LaRocca obtained his degree after five years of work, otherslabored for more than a decade – beginning their education even before thedegree program existed at the school.“It is a challenge,” said Auburn Correctional FacilitySuperintendent, Harold Graham. “If you just talk to the instructors, they’veseen such a huge change amongst the graduates in their own personal life….itgives them a sense of accomplishment and in some cases it’s the first thingthey’ve ever accomplished.”Most of the courses are taught at the facility by Cornellfaculty and graduate students. None of the funding for the program comes fromthe state. Cornell and Cayuga Community College collaborate on the program,along with Sunshine Lady Foundation founder Doris Buffett, sister of investorand philanthropist Warren Buffett.“It’s such a joy…a really deep joy to see somebody be ableto change their life around and that’s what we want,” Buffett said. “I’minvesting in people and I think that’s a good investment.”Although some of the men will never see a life beyond bars,some supporters say the program can still make a difference.“On the inside, it means people can remain productive, havea better sense of self esteem, have a capacity for communication and an abilityto live out their lives to the fullest potential,” said Jim Schechter ofCornell Prison Education Program.LaRocca admits he’s made a few bad choices. He’s got atleast five more years as an inmate before he’s able to give himself a new startfrom a violent burglar to a productive college graduate.“I’m going to try really hard to go home and get abachelor’s and master’s and PhD and do something with my life,” LaRocca said.The Cornell Prison Education Program has 65 full-timestudents. In July, it will accept another 18 out of 150 eligible to take theentrance exam.Copyright 2012Newport Television LLC All rights reserved. This material may not be published,broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.Link to original article here.