JENKINS COUNTY, GA (WFXG) - Inmates at Jenkins Correctional Center received a special gift this holiday season: their diploma.
More than 40 inmates received either a GED or vocational certificate at a graduation held in the facility's chapel, Friday afternoon.
The Jenkins Correctional Center has a partnership with the state of Georgia, which offers inmates a variety of educational opportunities and these graduates said they were more than willing to take advantage.
"I'm a little excited because it took me 43 years to do something I should have done in 18," said James Dykes, who received his GED, Friday. "At the time, money was more important than getting my education but now I realize it was the right thing to do."
Dykes landed in the slammer nearly 18 months ago for using and distributing meth but he said the experience has forced him to get on what he called the right path.
"I appreciate life a lot better," Dykes said. "I've done a lot of fun things and have been a lot of cool places but I really didn't enjoy them as much as I could have if I had been sober."
Inmates said their newly acquired certificates are about more than academic achievement, however. Some said they feel it is a second chance.
"I feel real proud that I've actually accomplished something, even though I'm in a facility like this," said Jonathan Bynum, who also received his GED on Friday. "I've actually done something to change my life. I want to change my life for my son and straighten out and do things for a better cause."
"I'm blessed enough to be able to go back to my job and spend a lot of time with my family," said Dykes.