During COVID-19, drive-through transition ceremonies ensure graduating participants get credit

During COVID-19, drive-through transition ceremonies ensure graduating participants get credit
During COVID-19, drive-through transition ceremonies ensure graduating participants get credit

While GEO Reentry Day Reporting Centers across the country haven’t been able to hold in-person graduations during the pandemic due to social distancing restrictions, several have instead hosted drive-through transition ceremonies to make sure participants get credit for their accomplishments.

In any form, graduations give participants who successfully completed programming at the non-residential reentry centers run by GEO Reentry Services the chance to realize a major milestone in their reentry journeys. But ceremonies like these also enhance participants’ motivation to continue working toward their reentry goals once they are no longer beholden to centers’ program measures.

At GEO Reentry non-residential reentry programs across the country, participants undergo multi-phase, evidence-based treatment that focuses on individuals’ criminogenic risks and needs to develop a behavior change plan for which there are held to account by their designated Case Manager. Participants referred to these programs experience cognitive behavioral therapy; employment readiness training; gain access to the Community Connections program, which links participants to valuable community resources, and more.

One of these drive-through ceremonies took place during September at the Merced Day Reporting Center in Merced, California, where the drive-through transition celebration turned out to be one of the biggest and most successful the DRC has ever had, graduating more participants than they ever had at one time.

Two other centers in California, the Orange County and West Orange County Day Reporting Centers, held a dual drive-through graduation celebration in September for 24 DRC program participants and another four who had completed the center’s restorative justice program.

The September 9 event was attended by probation officers and staff, and staff gave out certificates, plaques and boxed lunches to each graduate. A photo booth was also set up so participants could get a photo with their certificate as they stopped by. Several participants got the chance to speak at the ceremony, including graduate Steven Jordan, who expressed his gratitude toward program staff.

“I’m very thankful for the DRC program and my case managers,” Mr. Jordan said. “I was able to learn anger management techniques and create goals for myself I am now accomplishing. I’m now on my last semester at Chapman University and will be graduating in the fall with my Bachelor’s in business administration.”

In Pennsylvania, the Luzerne County Day Reporting Center in Wilkes-Barre also recently hosted a drive-through transition ceremony where 56 graduates drove to the center’s parking lot to receive their diplomas. Overall, the Luzerne Country program has graduated around 1,200 people since opening 10 years ago.

 “It feels fantastic,” Luzerne County Program Manager Stacey Velez told Fox 56 the day of the ceremony. “They worked really hard. It’s something they had to earn and put the time into. It’s not easy.”