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Notes from Walker State Prison Two Re-entry Program Students Send their Appreciation to Governor Deal

Warner Robins, Ga. – Students at Walker State Prison in the Welding program of Central Georgia Technical College’s (CGTC) Office of Re-entry Services recently sent Gov. Nathan Deal and first lady Sandra Deal handcrafted gifts. The items are a token of appreciation to the couple for their commitment to the state’s prison reform, as the two students discussed in reflection notes shared with the College.

The Deal’s tenure included early and sustained efforts to combat recidivism through criminal justice reform allowing inmates at Walker State Prison, among others, to participate in education and training programs through CGTC and its Office of Re-entry Services.

Re-entry Services at CGTC is a division of the College committed to the educational and training component of criminal justice reform and recidivism rate reduction among Georgia’s incarcerated citizens, and through its efforts, streamlines effective transition of those citizens into the workforce.

CGTC Welding program instructor William Hill has a project component to his course. Before completion of the project, Hill shared with his students that without the governor’s leadership their opportunity to enroll in a college program and earn employable credentials to their benefit post-release likely would not have happened.

The students and instructor saw fit to allow their talents to express their gratitude, turning the project into a gift. They designed and built a decorative rose wall mount and bracelet for Mrs. Deal. The items arrived to the Governor in the last week of December.

"Once Mr. Hill told me that my rose was going to the governor’s wife, I freaked out. After taking a few minutes to think about it, I changed my whole plan. Now, I had to make something that I thought was outside my capabilities. I wanted to impress the First Lady!!!"

- Project Leader No. 2

Two students each served as project leaders. The project leaders sent the items through the Office of Re-entry Services to Gov. Deal and followed up the assignment by jotting down their appreciation, and sharing their responses to how they learned of the governor’s impact on their training.

Dr. Brittany Lucas, the executive director of the Office of Re-entry Services, said the state has graciously afforded these men an unmerited new skill set, provided to them by a willing investment into their futures. She said she hopes their notes of gratitude find their way to the Deal family.

“The gifts are beautiful and the letters show the immense hard work, growth, humility and maturity these men have arrived at while serving their time at Walker State Prison,” Lucas said.

“As much as I am pleased to direct an office that oversees programs that will improve their opportunities post-release, I need not say more than what these men already have. Governor Deal’s impact is right there in their words.”

Pictured are the notes from students at Walker State Prison sent to the Office of Re-entry Services.

Provided below is the text from copies of the two project leaders’ notes to the Deal’s. Information pertaining to their identities and likeness has been redacted due to Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) policies.

Project Leader No. 1: Honestly, until now I never knew that Nathan Deal had any part of this class, but after finding out, I looked back during my time in the basic and advanced classes, and I believe that this class has given me a skill that will be the “saving grace” of my life; I’ve always wanted to learn how to weld and now that I possess these skills I can use them to integrate back into society without fear of, ‘What am I going to do for a job?’, on my mind. I love this class, and I don’t know if I could thank everyone involved enough for helping better myself…thank you. The rose idea was just a regular project at first, (not for anyone), but to show us that we can still succeed and provide for ourselves and our families, we thought that by me being an artist this would be easier for me than other (projects) because I have the “eye” for art work. When I was told this was going to the governor, I was almost done, but I went into PANIC mode and took it apart 2 or 3 times until it was right. Once I finished, it felt like I completed a marathon. Building this rose really brought out the OCD in me, and I hope it shows. For me to be picked to make something for the governor really stopped me in my tracks, because this man gave me the opportunity to be a better person, and I thought it would never equal what he has given me. I am very honored and thankful for everything.

Project Leader No. 2: At the beginning of the project, all I knew was that the rose was going to be part of my final grade. My thoughts were, I’m going to do my best and come up with a beautiful piece. Once Mr. Hill told me that my rose was going to the governor’s wife, I freaked out. After taking a few minutes to think about it, I changed my whole plan. Now, I had to make something that I thought was outside my capabilities. I wanted to impress the First Lady!!! While making the rose, I ran into some problems, bumps, and heartbreak. Things just were not going as I thought they should. After seeking help from Mr. Hill, the project got back on track. I had to have everything “perfect.” I welded, grinded, and welded some more. Finally, the rose was done!! For me and my skill level it was a masterpiece. Thanks to Mr. Hill and the instructions that he gave me, I was able to finish the rose and bracelet on time. I learned that if I just listen and learn, then use that information, I can make it through anything. When I learned about the welding program that Mr. Deal put in place, I thought that it would be a class/learning experience that would give me opportunities once I got out of prison. It was my intention to learn what I could and then build on it. I found a skill that I’m good at and now have a passion for. Without this welding program I may have never known that I had a passion for welding. My plans for the future include what I have learned here in the CGTC class. Thank you, Mr. Deal for believing in us and making opportunities available to us.

Credits:

Photos: JoBen Rivera-Thompson, CGTC Office of Marketing and Public Relation

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