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Inmates at Iowa State Penitentiary earn their GED’s

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Graduation season is near and that means plenty of caps and gowns, but a very special gradation was held in Fort Madison, Iowa Thursday.

Sixteen inmates at the Iowa State Penitentiary earned and received their G.E.D.’s from Southwestern Community College.   A typical graduation ceremony was held for not your typical graduates.

Travis Yearkle of Cedar Rapids says he was addicted to meth for almost half of his life says prison was the best thing to happen to him.

“I’ve been to treatment like ten times, treatment doesn't work for me.  I get out and I start using again.” Yearkle says.  “I get in prison and I get clean time; I don't want to go back to that life ever again.”

Now with a GED in hand when he does get out, he can already see a different life for himself.

“I can now get out, go to college, get a job and support myself,” Travis says.

Bruce Jones of Davenport also received his GED Thursday.

“This is going to knock down some barriers because I have tried to hurdle over them,” Jones says. “I am proud of myself.  There is a lot of big stuff going on with this little GED.”

Supervisor of Corrections Education, Robin Malmberg says this is what correctional education is all about.

“The Department Of Corrections is about transition and not coming back to this place,” Malmberg says. “There are national studies that show that any education while incarcerated reduces the risk of them coming back.”

But for Oscar Ibarra of Des Moines, sentenced at the age of 19 to life in prison without possibility of parole for a deadly stabbing, the motivation is a little different.

“Everyday I strive to better myself and to make the best out of my situation with only the thought of making my mom proud and being a positive role model for my little sister,” Ibarra says.

Many in his situation would have given up but for a young man who has had his freedom taken away, this GED opens a door.

“We are very limited behind these walls but I will not let that stop me.  Knowledge has no limits.”