Hawai‘i Inmate from Maui Earns College Degrees at Saguaro Facility in Arizona
CoreCivic’s Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona recently celebrated student-inmate Gregory Garcia of Maui, who earned two Associate Degrees.
The degrees of distinction were awarded in Arts and in General Studies, from Rio Salado Community College in Tempe, Arizona. Since 2016, Saguaro has partnered with colleges such as Rio Salado in an effort to support inmates who are seeking higher education.
While Rio Salado is located in Maricopa County, the school has offered inmates in Pinal County in-state, in-county tuition. And now that Pell Grants are more accessible to incarcerated individuals, some student-inmates at Saguaro may now qualify for grant dollars going forward.
“2016 was the year that I decided to change my life and work toward my associate degree,” said Garcia. “I felt ashamed that I didn’t have the courage to stand up and do what was right in the past, which ultimately motivated me to work toward a college degree. I wanted to become someone my three children can be proud of and look up to – that is all the motivation I needed to enroll in college and pursue my degree.”
Garcia’s dedication to his studies led him to maintain a 3.8 grade point average, earning 17 A’s and two B’s throughout his associate degree program, he reports.
“For someone who used to never learn from his own mistakes, graduating with distinction is a huge accomplishment for me. The education that I received helped me change my thinking process, made me a better listener and opened my mind,” said Garcia. “It also taught me empathy, compassion and how to communicate effectively. These are the important lessons that I have learned, and ones that I will apply outside [prison]. It’s something that can never be taken away from me.”
With two associate degrees now under his belt, Garcia plans to pursue his bachelor’s degree next.
“I am working hard now so that when I get out, I will have the skills and abilities to succeed,” said Garcia. “Running my own business has always been a dream, but now it will be a real possibility with my education.”
Garcia continued, “If there are inmates who are currently thinking about enrolling in correctional education, I’d tell them that when you feel like quitting, just remember why you started.”
At this time, 19 out of the 22 Saguaro inmates who are enrolled in classes at Rio Salado are from Hawaiʻi, with some enrollment applications pending.