First class ever graduates from values-based prison program
A program aimed to transform the lives of those incarcerated had the first class graduate right here in central Nebraska.
At the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women, 12 women stood proud as they graduated as the very first class in the country through the program that instills values to help them live their lives holistically.
The women proudly marched down the aisle to the front in celebration.
One woman said it's a major accomplishment for her.
"I'm excited. I'm really excited. I was thinking about it the other day that I made a commitment for 12 months and I completed it. For the first time in my life I completed something that wasn't mandatory you know? It's been life changing," said graduate of the Prison Fellowship Academy Ramona Stubben.
"I'm excited to just have a day to feel like a real person and they've put in so much work into this. I just really appreciate it," said graduate of the Prison Fellowship Academy Sarah Cullen.
These women applied to the program a year ago completing 12 hours a week of life-skills classes based around six core values.
"Integrity, accountability, community, restoration, affirmation and productivity. What we want to see in terms of the outcomes of our academy is that our participants are practicing these," said National Director for Academy Operations with the Prison Fellowship Academy Cody Wilde.
But one woman said it wasn't all easy.
"It got way too real and I'm a runner. I thought that if I could run I wouldn't have to worry about any of this. I did and I tried. But Warden Davidson and Danielle pulled me aside and they let me know that I matter and that I was actually an asset. I've never heard that before," Stubben said.
The program launched last year in York and is the first standardized academy.
To join the program, those incarcerated must apply and go through an interview process.
"Our goal is just to educate and learn how to be the best citizens we can be within the society we are in. So we are in prison, so how can we be the best citizen we can be while we are in prison? That's really our goal to work with them on that," said Academy Services Coordinator with the Prison Fellowship Academy Danielle Arnold.
But the program doesn't just teach short term skills, it instills values they can carry on for the rest of their lives.
"It has changed my core. Everything, I am completely transformed. I'm happy, I'm at peace. I've never been at peace or as happy as I am right now. Even though I'm in prison, I'm not in prison," Stubben said.
Prison Fellowship Academy said they hope to bring this program to both a men's and women's prison in each state across the country.