NEWS: Otero County Prison Facility hosts virtual HVAC and GED commencement
CHAPARRAL – The Otero County Prison Facility on Jan. 7 hosted its first virtual commencement ceremony for graduates of a recent partnership with Doña Ana Community College’s Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning program and the facility’s General Education Development program. The education offerings for detainees are designed to prepare the “men and women to a successful transition back into society upon their release,” according to a news release from the facility.
In 2019, OCPF partnered with DACC for the first time. Nine male inmates joined the HVAC program. The facility’s education department offered HVAC classes from Monday through Friday and lab courses. In December, the nine inmates met the requirements to become certified technicians through DACC.
“We understand and appreciate the amount of money, time and effort went into starting this program and continue it here,” said one graduate. “Thanks to all of you, our chances of succeeding on release have high skyrocket it. Because guys, now we have a certificate that allows us to go to work in a very high paying job — in a job market where there are thousands of opportunities right now.”
Due to the pandemic, the number of guests was limited during this event. For the first time, OCPF broadcast the graduation ceremony through Zoom. The Recidivism Reduction Division Education Administrator of New Mexico Corrections Department, Robert Madrid, Department Chair/Professor of Commercial Technologies Department of New Mexico State University Terry Mount and DACC Instructor of Commercial Technologies Department, Edward Lopez participated as guest speakers via Zoom.
“Graduates, I would like to let you know how proud we are of you that you allowed DACC to be part of your journey and your educational pursuit,” added Mount.
New Mexico State Rep. Willie Madrid, D-Chaparral, also delivered a speech to the graduates during the ceremony.
“For those of you who are graduating with HVAC, congratulations,” Rep. Madrid said. “I smile even bigger because you are in the midst of the most important time with this pandemic, but your role would be forever lasting. There will be lots of jobs, lots of opportunities, and I encourage you … don’t stop here, continue education.”
Two male inmates were selected to deliver valedictorian speeches, the release stated.
Otero County Prison Facility hosts at least two commencement ceremonies annually. Only guest speakers, staff and graduates were able to attend graduation ceremonies before the COVID-19 pandemic, the facility stated. This year, because the ceremony was live-streamed through Zoom, graduates were able to share this moment with their loved ones who joined via Zoom.