Nashville/ Politics & Govt
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Published on May 24, 2024
Unlocking Potential: Inmates at Riverbend Secure College Degrees Through Lipscomb University ProgramSource: Tennessee Department of Correction

It was a graduation unlike any other behind the fortified walls of Riverbend Maximum Security Institution where four inmates turned their tassels, having earned Associate of Arts degrees through a unique program offered by Lipscomb University. These individuals, dressed in the traditional cap and gown, celebrated a momentous achievement signifying a journey of personal and academic triumph.

Through the Lipscomb Initiative for Education (LIFE) program, which brought university professors into the prison to provide face-to-face instruction once a week, these students managed to meet the challenge of higher education despite their confinements. This accomplishment marks the first occasion that college degrees have been awarded at Riverbend through the Lipscomb LIFE program.

During the ceremony, Lipscomb President Candice McQueen reminded the graduates of the power of learning, saying, “Education opens doors to opportunity, and it does so no matter the circumstances we find ourselves in.  You’ve shown no matter where you are, you can redefine your future,” as reported by the Tennessee Department of Correction.

The journey to this milestone has been long, spanning nearly a decade—a testament to the enduring spirit and commitment of the graduates. Their academic strides will continue as they are now set to pursue the Bachelor of Professional Studies degree, a next chapter that promises to build a foundation for futures previously unimagined.

Since its inception in 2007 and expansion to Riverbend in 2013, the LIFE program has seen a notable number of graduates, awarding 25 Associate of Arts degrees, 13 Bachelor of Professional Studies degrees, and 8 Master of Arts in Christian Ministry degrees. Such initiatives represent not just academic success but a reimagining of what rehabilitation and redemption can look like behind prison walls.