On Aug. 22, The College at Southeastern held its inaugural commencement for the Wake County Extension Center (WCEC) educational program, celebrating the accomplishments of five incarcerated women who graduated with an associate of arts.
“To be where we are today, celebrating the conferral of these five associate degrees, is nothing short of miraculous,” shared Seth Bible, director of Prison Programs and assistant professor of ethics and the history of ideas at The College. Reflecting on the graduates’ journeys to this moment, Bible reminded the graduates and attendees that the success of the program and the accomplishments of the graduates are owing to the faithfulness and providential kindness of God.
“Starting an educational program in the middle of a pandemic would be difficult anywhere, but it is immeasurably harder in an incarcerated context,” commented Bible during the commencement ceremony. “God has faithfully sustained these efforts and consistently opened seemingly impossible doors. In many ways, the most important thing that we have done over the past two-and-a-half years is simply walk the path that God has placed in front of us.”
In partnership with the Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the Sunshine Lady Foundation, The College launched its educational program at WCEC in August 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Overcoming health and logistical concerns while attempting an unprecedented training program for incarcerated women, professors and administrators in the program experienced God’s sustained blessing as they persevered in the arduous yet rewarding task of providing incarcerated students with a quality liberal arts education rooted in a rich Christian foundation.
The commencement ceremony for these five graduates represented the culmination of God’s blessings and the investments made by the graduates and those involved in their education. Earning an associate of arts in the program, the graduates have been equipped for public service or to pursue further education. As alumni of The College, the graduates now carry their Southeastern education into a variety of contexts as God directs their future steps.
“It was a good day when God opened the door for you to become a part of the Southeastern family,” President Danny Akin shared with the graduates. “Know that you will always be a part of the Southeastern family. Our faculty knows you are graduating today, and I can assure you they too are praying for you. They are thrilled now to call you graduates and alumni of The College at Southeastern.”
Encouraging the graduates and attendees with a charge from Hebrews 12:1-2, Akin reminded students that the Christian life is a race to be endured and completed in Jesus’s strength: “What I have learned in my 55 years as a follower of Jesus is that when we are running the race and can hardly take another step, Jesus comes right alongside of us, picks us up and carries us. We do not run the race in our strength. We run the race in His.”
The WCEC educational program is designed to equip and educate incarcerated women to lead and serve in whatever they do, wherever they are. Because every student who is accepted for the program already has a release date, this program aims not only to provide each student with knowledge and training for flourishing during the remainder of her sentence but also to improve her post-release employment opportunities.
To learn more about The College’s prison programs or give to support these strategic educational efforts, visit the Prison Programs page on The College website.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chad Burchett is a writer for the SEBTS office of communications.)