140 Grays Harbor College graduates within Stafford Creek honored this week

Grays Harbor College announced that they awarded 140 degrees and certificates to graduates within the Stafford Creek Corrections Center last week in the first graduation ceremony there since the winter of 2020.

At the ceremony, GHC tells KXRO that they awarded: 

  • 61 High School Diplomas
  • 38 Construction Trades Apprenticeship Preparation Certificates
  • 26 Associate of Applied Science in Business Management degrees
  • 8 GEDs
  • 5 Welding Certificates, and 
  • 1 Associate of Applied Science in Human Services degree

GHC also celebrated the accomplishments of students who graduated from Ohio University and Walla Walla with associate degrees.

Dr. Carli Schiffner, GHC’s president, congratulated the graduates for their accomplishments. “You have cleared milestones, and you have done it in the face of many obstacles. Your success in getting to this point is a testament to your perseverance, dedication, and determination. It is inspiring to see and hear your journeys. You are also setting an example—providing hope—of what can be done—changing the direction of your lives and your family’s lives.”

The graduates had the chance to speak at the ceremony with the college noting some highlighting the importance of education for their families. 

“Getting this education makes me a better person. I am better for my kids, my family, and my community,” said one graduate. 

Another shared, “I never saw myself where I am now. Getting these skills is going to change not only my life, but my family’s life when I get out. This will help me provide a better life for my family.” 

Other graduates took the opportunity to thank members of their support systems. “Without all of you, I know I wouldn’t have made it to this day.” Many also expressed a hopeful outlook for the future with statements including, “we are not our pasts,” “these are the first steps to building our future,” and “I am standing here a changed man because of the educational opportunity I have been fortunate enough to get. I see only great things in my future.”

According to Jayme Peterson, GHC’s Dean for Education at Stafford Creek, last week’s ceremony was extra meaningful, as it was the first graduation ceremony that GHC has hosted at Stafford Creek since the pandemic began.  

“The students all shared that they were not only proud of themselves, but also their classmates because they all knew just how hard it was during the pandemic to keep moving forward and staying positive, even when they lost loved ones,” said Peterson.

The number of Stafford Creek students who have recently completed degrees and certificates is more than double the number represented at last week’s ceremony. 

Since winter 2020, 286 students have earned degrees and certificates from GHC from within Stafford Creek. Of those 286 students, 150 were still incarcerated at the time of the graduation ceremony. The remaining students had either been released or transferred to another facility.

Students at Stafford Creek have opportunities to complete their high school equivalency, earn certificates in several professional and technical fields, and earn select associate degrees.

This week, GHC received approval to offer two degrees that are eligible for financial aid. “This is a game changer for our justice-involved students,” said Dr. Schiffner. “GHC is leading the state in this work thanks to Jayme Peterson and the amazing staff and faculty at Stafford Creek. Thank you to Greg, Chris, Karen, Kelly, Scott, Don, Nancy, Lance, Brian, and Jayme for your commitment to serving all of our students in our district.”