Ten residents at Tully House in Newark, New Jersey, were officially awarded their high school equivalency diplomas in May. Staff, family members and fellow residents attended the uplifting ceremony to honor the hard work the residents put forth in participating in the educational training provided at Tully House by GEO Reentry Services and Education and Health Centers of America (EHCA).
Tully House is a residential reentry center that accommodates male residents referred from the New Jersey Department of Corrections. GEO Reentry provides a full program of evidence-based reentry treatment services at Tully House through its contract with EHCA.
During the ceremony, Ronald Morrison, deputy director of program services at Tully House, welcomed all, thanking Darcella Sessomes, assistant commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Corrections, Garyn Nathan, supervising program support specialist at the Office of Communities Programs New Jersey Department of Corrections, and Tully House Director Darryl Hooper for their efforts in making the test accessible for the residents.
Angela Geisinger, national director of academic and vocational programs for The GEO Group, was the motivational speaker, addressing the grads with an inspiring message of beginning anew. She distributed books and pens to honor their graduation, saying, “every great story begins with a sentence.”
“These residents worked hard to make the worthwhile commitment to this achievement,” Ronald Morrison, deputy director of Tully House, said. “Returning to the community as high school graduates will help them with a better start to pursue additional educational or vocational opportunities.”
“It’s very rewarding to see lives impacted for the better by the services we provide at Tully House,” Richard McCourt, a senior area manager for GEO Reentry, said. “Graduations are a great milestone in reentry programming, and we are very pleased to acknowledge these accomplishments that both staff and residents work very hard for.”
Staff and graduates praised Samantha Brooks, education manager, who taught the residents and prepared them for the Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC) test. Ten out of 10 residents who took the test passed and the facility enjoyed putting on a ceremony with graduation-themed decoration.
“[Samantha Brooks] gave me the motivation to pursue education,” one resident said. “I never thought it would be possible to get my high school diploma. Ms. Brooks said she would help me, and thanks to her I had the courage to keep going.”
During the ceremony, Ms. Brooks urged her students to stay steadfast in their endeavors and to go and make a difference in the world. She quoted Michelle Obama and her important emphasis on hope for the future.
Additional speakers included Leighton Newlin, director of special services at Tully House, and Geraldine Morgan, unit manager, who presented the graduates. Mr. Newlin secures opportunities for residents to attend college or vocational trainings. Two of the current grads are already pursuing higher education and are enrolled in the county college with the help of Mr. Newlin. Throughout the years, Mr. Newlin has secured college entrance for many Tully House residents who earned their diploma while at the facility. Paula Lord, office administrator, is also an integral figure at Tully House, who assists in helping residents with community connections and preparation to reenter society upon program completion.
Another resident reminded the crowd of the importance of a historical perspective, citing the 1954 Supreme Court ruling of Brown vs. the Board of Education, making school segregation unconstitutional. He urged the grads to reflect on the power of education and the importance of change, reminding the crowd that many fought hard for the right to an education. “Stand up and be heard!” he said.
Residents enter the two-to-four-month educational program by undergoing individual assessments, used to determine level of educational ability. Ms. Brooks then bases her teaching strategy on what best helps residents at different levels. She works with the “Common Core Achieve,” method of learning, which she favors for its step-by-step instruction and comprehensive illustrated examples.
GEO Reentry provides educational programming at Tully House, in addition to substance abuse programming, vocational and work release services, family services and alumni services to a male population referred from the New Jersey Department of Corrections.
Read more about residential reentry programming.