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Vocational Training Welds Inmates to Hope

 

DATC class

Mary Crawford, DATC program director, addresses graduates during Thursday's graduation.


Philip Lee has earned three vocational certifications during his time at the Utah State Prison. But that's not the only education he received.

The hard work it took to finish those programs taught Lee to believe in himself.

"It made me believe I am worthy," he said. "I can accomplish something."

Lee was among 30 inmates who received certification diplomas on Thursday from Davis Applied Technology College. Lee, who already has certifications in industrial maintenance and welding, recevied a new diploma in business technology. Nine other inmates also received certifications in business technology. Seven were certified in automotive technology; four in welding; three in culinary and three in machining.

DATC has provided vocational training at the prison since 2010 and offers certifcations in seven areas.

In the past four years, a total of 279 inmates have graduated from DATC. Many go on to complete additional training at the college once they're released.

Lee, 48, first came to prison in 1994 and returned in 2003 on a parole violation. Lee will be discharged in 17 months, and says he is done with prison — mentally, emotionally, and physically. You have to want something better for yourself before change is possible, he said.

"You know you're done because you feel it in your core," said Lee. "I'm done."

Lee also completed an associate's degree before that program was discontinued.

Once back in the community, Lee plans to finish additional training at DATC and then wants to work as a welder.

"I love welding," said Lee. "It's something I found I'm naturally good at."

Michael Bouwhuis, DATC campus president, told the graduates there are many good-paying jobs waiting for them once they leave prison.

"I have a soft spot in my heart for guys who overcome obstacles," Bouwhuis said. "There's hope out there. ... I'm very proud of you and I want you to know there's hope."


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Executive Director Rollin Cook congratulates Philip Lee.