Genesee Co. inmates celebrate I.G.N.I.T.E. graduation
GENESEE CO., Mich. (WNEM) - It was Graduation Day for inmates in a jail who are acquiring skills in the hopes of becoming productive citizens once they’re released.
The CEO of a multimillion-dollar company who beat the odds said there’s a whole world of possibilities out there for these graduates, they just have to chase it.
“This is a graduation, but this is an evolution of what’s going to happen. I need y’all to come out here and go hard. Go crazy. Use this GED and the tools that you received here and go crazy,” said 28-year-old Akil Alvin, the CEO and global chief creative officer at Detroit Digital Media.
Alvin spoke to 32 graduates of the I.G.N.I.T.E. program at the Genesee County Jail.
He said he went from growing up in the worst neighborhoods in Detroit to running a multimillion-dollar company that has worked with clients like McDonald’s, Ford, the Detroit Tigers, and Bank of America.
He wanted the graduates to know they can have the same level of success.
“But at the end of the day, it’s all about what you make it. It’s not about the hand that’s dealt to you, it’s about what you do with that,” he said.
Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson started the I.G.N.I.T.E. program, which stands for “inmate growth naturally and intentionally through education,” a little over three years ago.
Swanson is passionate about giving inmates in the jail the tools they need so they never end up behind bars again. On Tuesday, Nov. 14, graduates earned 3 GEDs, 1 high school diploma, 5 barber school certificates, and 23 Eat Healthy certificates.
The inmates are embracing the opportunity.
“This is the best opportunity I’ve ever had in my life. I finally got my high school diploma,” one inmate said.
Another inmate said these opportunities weren’t offered to him while he was out of jail.
“I mean this isn’t the first rodeo unfortunately, but hopefully it’s the shortest one. But it’s definitely a different opportunity than I experienced back in Denver. I mean maybe y’all can reach out there and teach them something,” he said.
For his part, Alvin wants these graduates to know this is only the beginning.
“We want to see a success story. We want to see you win. But how bad do you want to see you win?” he said.
Tuesday’s event was an all-male graduation. An all-female I.G.N.I.T.E. graduation is scheduled for later this month.
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