JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS) – Graduates and advisors along with the President of Jackson College take a photo after the ceremony.

A correctional facility in Jackson is celebrating new graduates.

Some dozens of prisoners received their associate degrees from Jackson college today.

The G. Robert Cotton correctional facility in Jackson held a graduation ceremony for 31 graduates this afternoon. They walked across the stage before friends and family, saying this is the first step to unlocking a new life.

Today was a special day for these prisoners as they accomplished a goal they never thought they’d achieve. Now they can call themselves graduates of Jackson college.

With most earning their associate degree in business and general studies, many hope their mistakes of the past can stay there, so they can unlock opportunities for themselves and others in a similar situation.

“I’ve been fighting for my freedom for the last 10 years”, says Richard Strong. “But during that process I’ve realized it couldn’t be about me and I had to give back to a lot of people.”

James Goble’s, one of the graduates, said, “I’ve been in prison for 50 years, since 1972.”

He hopes to someday earn his bachelor’s degree as well.

“It’s better to better yourself, find something that you enjoy. If I would’ve known, I’d enjoy it this much, I would’ve done it many years ago.”

And the mentors who’ve witnessed their journeys couldn’t be more proud.

Nadia Elanani, one of the college advisors, commented on how the decision to attend college could help their families. “Though they’re incarcerated they are affecting their children on the outside. Oh, my dad’s going to college, oh I want to go.”

As each of these 31 graduates turn their tassels from left to right, they can now let their minds runs free through education, even though they’re physically confined.

Daniel Phelan, the President of Jackson College, was there as well.

He says he’s very excited to continue funding the education of those behind bars. And all 31 graduates today will not have to worry about paying for their associate degree.