May 5, 2006

Cutcliffe congratulates graduates

There were family members in attendance. Pomp and circumstance was playing over the loud-speakers. It was truly a commencement exercise. There were nineteen graduates fitted in gowns.

But what made this particular graduation ceremony different then the many you'll be seeing with regularity later this month was the locking of the prison doors behind you as you entered the Morgan County Correctional Facility gym where the ceremony was held.

For David Cutcliffe, the sound was a familiar one because for Cutcliffe, being the commencement speaker is something he did nearly every spring when he was an assistant at Tennessee. Cutcliffe has taken numerous players, including Heath Shuler and Peyton Manning, to be a part of the ceremony and on Thursday Jonathan Crompton and Bo Hardegree took in the experience with Cutcliffe, Associate Athletic Director Carmen Tegano, and myself.

"I started doing it about fifteen years ago," Cutcliffe said. "I got interested in it when David Pack( the Correction Facility principal), who went to high school with my wife, mentioned it do me. It just sounded interesting. I did not know what was going on inside a prison from an education standpoint. I admired what they were doing. I went there and really enjoyed myself and what I saw. So when I have had the opportunity to go back I have done that every year."

The graduates either received their GED or received a certificate in a vocational trade. Class is taught daily from 8:30-3:30 every day and you cannot participate in the vocational training without having your GED. On Thursday, the graduating inmates and each inmate who is in the education program, which is some 250 were in the gym to hear Cutcliffe speak. Cutcliffe's message was one of congratulations and participation. He divided the room and did a snap count drill, he spoke of his offense and where they are at this point. And as he did so, he held the attention of everyone.

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