NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Anthony Sexton graduated with his GED on Wednesday inside the Norfolk City Jail, where he’s serving five years as a nonviolent offender.
What makes his graduation special is that he passed all his tests without ever stepping foot in a classroom.
“I never accomplished nothing before, so I feel like I hit the lottery,” said Sexton. “I am proud of myself.”
Sexton is the brainchild and first graduate of the jail’s “self-study” program – which allows inmates to study on their own time and at their own pace before taking a series of tests to receive their GED.
“I didn’t want to hold up anybody else’s seat, so I felt like I can go study on my own,” he said.
Sheriff Joe Baron says it’s a break from the traditional classroom learning environment – but all inmates are still required to take the same exams.
“If we are not trying to help them find a different path in life other than what got them here, then really why are we here?” said Baron. “A lot of employers require a GED or high school diploma at the bare minimum just to come work there.”
Baron says 13 other inmates have already signed on for “self-study,” which shows Sexton’s idea is working by allowing more people behind bars the opportunity to advance their education.
“I was surprised that I had encouraged more people to do it,” said Sexton. “That made me feel real happy and I know my family is going to feel the same way.”
Sexton has one year left of his five year sentence, but he’s happy to have his GED to help him make the most of the freedom that’s coming.
“I am happy things worked out the way they did,” he said. “All I see is good things in my future.”