ISTC Graduates Prepare to Leave Prison, Enter the Workforce

J. F. Ingram State Technical College recognized the accomplishments of 155 graduates at commencement ceremonies on May 14 and 16, 2019. ISTC president Annette Funderburk said those recognized included male and female graduates from 15 of the college’s career technical programs, individuals who earned their GED, and those completing the ISTC high school program.

Established by the Alabama legislature and part of the Alabama Community College System, ISTC serves incarcerated students exclusively. “Studies show that education reduces recidivism,” said Funderburk. “These graduates have taken advantage of the second chance offered them through education and they are preparing for a future that does not include incarceration.”

Funderburk stressed that over 94 percent of individuals in Alabama prisons will be released back to their communities, including every ISTC graduate. “With the skills they have learned, these graduates are prepared to become a viable part of the state’s workforce. Alabama employers need qualified workers. Our goal is to provide education and training that prepares students to meet that need.”

Terrell Blount of the Vera Institute for Justice was the featured commencement speaker. Blount shared his own experiences within the criminal justice system with the graduates, as well as his determination to change his life and the role education played in helping him meet that goal. A graduate of Rutgers University, Blount is an activist for prison reform civil rights.

A portion of the ceremonies featured outstanding achievements by ISTC students. Auto Body Repair student Wesley Mindler, winner of the 2019 ISTC Oratorical and Visual Arts competition, reprised his winning speech, “A Minor Setback for A Major Comeback” at the men’s commencement on Thursday. Plumbing graduate Suroy Wheeler was recognized for earning an Alabama journeyman plumber’s certification while a student at ISTC; and three female graduates of the Logistics program were among the first ISTC students certified by the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council.

Also receiving special recognition were members of Beta Psi Gamma, the college’s newly established Phi Theta Kappa chapter. The national honor society recognizes students for outstanding academic achievement.