MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It was pomp and circumstance inside the walls of Jail East on Wednesday, as four women in jail earned their high school diplomas.
Just like any graduation, there was cheering, music, speeches and proud parent hugs. Those receiving their high school diplomas donned a graduation cap and gown, ready for a new beginning and anxious to take on the world.
“I was nervous,” valedictorian Nicole, 36, said. “Not gonna lie, I was nervous. It’s been an experience.”
WREG can’t say her full name or show her face for privacy reasons, but she’s excited for the future.
“It feels good,” she said. It feels good. My son will be excited. He is 15.”
Nicole has been at Jail East for the last six months. She received her diploma after she was unable to graduate when she got pregnant in the 12th grade.
Besides this accomplishment, seeing her mother was the bright light of the day.
“I haven’t seen or be able to touch my family in six months,” Nicole said.
Nicole is one of several people The Program Pod: women 18 to 40 years old.
“We just want them to be productive when they leave here,” assistant chief Deidra Bridgeforth said.
The goal is to tap into the women’s skills and talents, receiving the outside skills needed to help them once they are back in society.
“We as women often times we are fighting with self esteem problems, and often times it takes women to understand women,” Bridgeforth said. “So what we’re doing is trying to relate to them with the programs that will better benefit them as women.”
For Nicole, she’s putting those skills to work Monday when she gets out of jail. She’s heading to college and plans to study accounting.
“I’m good with numbers,” she said.
Along with graduation, there was also a Christmas program. A total of 10 women actually received their diplomas, but six of them have already left the jail.