The summer session concluded with 22 students receiving Certificates of Completion. For many, it was the first step in a new journey.

SAN MARCOS — The Palomar College “Corrections to College” program, known as Transitions, celebrated 22 formerly incarcerated students who completed the intensive eight-week program to earn Certificates of Completion on Friday, August 13, 2021.

The outdoor, morning ceremony at Palomar’s main campus was attended by 100 people in the shade of the Natural Sciences building, where a number of speakers praised the program finishers and encouraged them to continue their education.

“I want to encourage you to keep going because, I promise you, your education will guard you against some unnecessary challenges in life,” said Superintendent/President Dr. Star Rivera-Lacey. “No one can take your education away from you.”

The Transitions program helps previously incarcerated individuals adjust to a college campus and successfully begin or resume their higher education. The summer session serves as an orientation to the program and includes tutoring, weekly team building activities, guest speakers and various other forms of support.

“Do you know you just crammed 17 weeks of work into eight weeks?” said Nora Kenney-Whitley, the Transitions coordinator at Palomar. “You made it—and you’re going to keep making it. We have such diversity in this group, and you’re all teaching each other, sharing your experiences with each other. What an amazing group.”

Kenney-Whitley and several students also paid tribute to Margaret Goleniak, who passed away at the age of 29 just before finishing the Transitions program. Goleniak’s fiance accepted her posthumous Certificate of Completion.

One of the program’s Peer Mentors, Christy Davis, recalled her arrival at Palomar College years ago: “I believed I hated school, but six weeks in, I had a change of heart. Education doesn’t fix everything, but it gives us tools and support to get through.”

During the ceremony, Palomar College Foundation Executive Director Stacy Rungaitis presented a $2,500 grant to long-time Transitions organizer Lawrence Morris, who also shared his story from the podium on Friday.

Another veteran of the program, Cal State San Marcos Professor Martin Leyva, said during his address that “these programs only exist because you all show up.”

“Re-entry is hard,” said Leyva. “We’re re-entering a society that pushed us away in the beginning, and may not want us. But y’all ain’t got no excuses now. We built a family this summer, and these are lifetime commitments. I’m proud of all of you for finishing.”

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Palomar Transitions Grant Video 2021 from Palomar TV on Vimeo.