NewsCovering Kern County

Actions

Kern Valley State prisoners earn Bakersfield College degrees from behind bars

Posted at 11:37 AM, Aug 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-29 16:18:44-04

DELANO, Calif. — School just started back up for Bakersfield College, but one group of students is celebrating graduation.

Seventeen inmate students at Kern Valley State Prison received associate degrees from Bakersfield College in what will be the first commencement since the 'face-to-face' program began in 2015.

“It’s almost making the impossible possible. Our inmates really needed to engage in classes to open up their world views," said Bakersfield College President Sonya Christian. "This has been transformative."

With nearly a perfect GPA, Peter Soto is the valedictorian of his graduating class. But he says he might not have ever considered college has he not ended up in prison in the first place.

“I was committed to a neighborhood, a gang. But I got in trouble and ever since I have been in prison I learned to change all my way," said Soto. "I didn’t have the work ethic or discipline or determination that I have now in order to complete such a rigorous course as this.”

The program enrollment has ballooned from 30 students during the first year to 498 students enrolled this year. All associate degrees earned by inmates are transferable to four-year universities.

To learn more about the partnership between Bakersfield College and Kern Valley State Prison, click here.