Only 17 graduates showed up to Davis Technical College’s graduation ceremony at Utah State Prison on Wednesday.
And Dan Powers couldn’t have been happier.
“We had 72 graduates,” said Powers, the Draper Campus Program Manager for Davis Technical College. “Most have left the facility and reentered into the community.”
That’s the goal: Giving offenders opportunities to stay out.
Now in its eighth year, the vocation program operated by the Kaysville-based school has graduated hundreds of inmates in programs such as automotive technology, business administrative services and computer numerical control machining. Students earn a certificate of completion when they finish one of the seven, 1,200-hour courses at the Draper site.
Powers has been with the Davis Tech program since the beginning, spending the first seven years as an automotive instructor. He said the most recent statistics show recidivism drops 40 percent among graduates.
“We are providing people with the skills to get jobs, earn livable wages … and to stay out of prison,” he said. “(We want) to break that long-time cycle of people returning to prison.”
The keynote speaker was Court McGee. A successful mixed-martial arts competitor who won the 11th season of the “Ultimate Fighter” television show, McGee detailed his near-death experience due to a heroin overdose and his time at the Northern Utah Community Correctional Center.
“When I sit in this room, I fit in,” he said. “You guys are the ones who inspire me to compete.”
He talked about sobriety and his battle to change, something he wanted them to accomplish.
“You guys are capable, valuable and have a lot to offer this world,” he said. “You guys will have opportunities, but being available for those opportunities is important.”
His words hit home with graduate Larry Agee, who received certificates in business administrative services and welding technologies. Agee said he wants to use his education to start a sober living home where he can teach welding to help residents learn a trade.
He said McGee’s talk showed him “that sobriety is the most important part of me being successful.”
Powers said there are plans to expand Davis Tech’s offerings at the prison, starting in November. A low-voltage wiring program is scheduled for Timpanogas. It will help women be qualified for work as internet, cable or home security system installers.
“I love what I do,” added Powers. “It is that sense of accomplishment, that you have helped someone out and provided them with the skills to succeed.”