Participants and staff at the Lancaster Reentry Service Center, a non-residential reentry center in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, recently took part in a unique “drive through” transition ceremony, which had been modified from the traditional format according to current social distancing restrictions.
RSC staff came up with the idea for the alternative ceremony, where graduating participants entered the building at staggered times to maintain pandemic safety precautions. After completing GEO Reentry’s evidence-based programming, transition ceremonies acknowledge a participant’s hard work to change criminal thinking and behavior patterns and establish a positive lifestyle.
“Each participant recognized during this celebration has made a commitment to themselves, their families and their community to make a lasting change,” said GEO Reentry Pennsylvania Area Manager John Hogan. “Reentry programs aren’t easy to complete and require a lot of hard work and reflection. We’re inspired by the accomplishments of these participants and humbled to be part of changing behaviors and changing lives.”
The RSC graduated 37 participants, who received certificates of completion for finishing approximately nine months of programming, which included Cognitive Behavioral Treatment, Batterers’ Intervention, substance abuse treatment, employment services, anger management and individual case management.
Four graduates were noted for their accomplishment during the ceremony. One, who completed the program after one year followed by six months of workforce training, had landed a secure job after facing roadblocks to employment, while another had started college to pursue a degree in counseling to work with at-risk youth. Two other participants are currently studying for their CDL license after being guided by Lancaster staff to seek out job opportunities on CareerLink.
“We are so pleased to hold an inspiring graduation that had so much to celebrate, as a result of the hard work by staff and participants,” said Program Manager Kim Reichenbach. “This group was willing to learn and change, resulting in many participant successes and a sense of reward for our staff.”
At the drive-through graduation ceremony, RSC staff set up stations that participants could visit upon entering the building: a welcome station, a program station, a gift bag station— bags were packed with a candle, an inspirational journal and lunch — and a gratitude station, where they were asked to write down an inspirational message for new participants coming to the center next. Congratulations, graduates!