10 inmates make history as first to graduate from school's prison education program
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Ten inmates from the Missouri Eastern Correctional Center state prison made history Wednesday as the first to graduate from Washington University’s Prison Education Project.

The 10 inmates, wearing the university's green and black graduation regalia over their prison uniforms, received their diplomas Wednesday during a ceremony in a visitors room in the state prison, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The students were all previously convicted of felonies and are serving their respective prison sentences.

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“We’ve created this liberal arts environment in the middle of a prison,” Robert Henke, professor and director of the program, told the Post-Dispatch.

“You get your books and it’s Homer’s Odyssey and you start talking about the text. You’re the professor and they’re not criminals, they’re not inmates, they’re college students.”

Each graduate earned an associate degree by completing 60 credit hours of course work in classes taught by professors from Washington University in St. Louis. The student inmates took two to four classes each semester, which were offered for free through the program, the news outlet notes.

The program accepts 10 students each year out of nearly 60 inmates who apply.

One of the graduates, Kareem Martin, said completing the program made him feel more like a contributing member of society.

“It awakened something in me that needed to be awakened,” he told the news outlet.

The program is funded primarily by Washington University and is part of the Bard Prison Initiative, which has 11 participating colleges nationwide.