EL PASO COUNTY — Inmates at the El Paso County Jail are getting a second chance.
Through a partnership with Pikes Peak Community College 18 men and women graduated on Thursday from the "Growth and Leadership Life Skills Training Series."
It's an effort to cut down on repeat offenders, but also gives people skills they can use to enter the workforce and drive positive change.
The program - focusing not on what they did, but where they're going moving forward.
Nathaniel Buckmann, an inmate at the CJC said, "I've realized that I was in a downward spiral until this time...I've realized that I can't define myself of where I came from, but where I'm going."
This realization comes after the 12-week training series that helps El Paso County CJC inmates grow, learn, and change with the goal of not returning to jail once they're released.
The program focuses on a variety of subjects.
Participant Robert Jones shared that he's learned about "planning ahead, crisis management."
Other subjects include business etiquette and customer service skills which are huge for people like Sean Mayes.
He said, "I want to start my own barbershop and stuff like that."
With the completion of the program, Mayes and several other participants received a graduation certificate.
Participant Felesha Johnson said, "When I first came into jail I was angry and kind of bitter and just feeling really discouraged, and now I'm confident and realize how much potential I have."
Shawna Cowden said, "I'm proud of myself because this is the first time I've ever graduated anything in my life."
Sara Boatz, lead facilitator for the Pikes Peak Community College Workforce Development Division, says the backbone of the program is to give participants a path and a focus.
Boatz said, "They articulate what they want from life and what matters to them, and then we put them through a process to help them create an action plan."
It's a plan that will hopefully take them far beyond the walls of the jail.
Boatz said, "That's what we're looking for and hopefully it's what they need so that they don't come back."
Since the program started last August Boatz shared that close to 30 people have graduated. Some are taking the next step, once they're released, to participate in Career Boost. It's a non-credit workforce training program through Pikes Peak Community College.