MOUNTAIN CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Thirteen inmates at the Northeast Correctional Complex (NECX) are now college graduates after they completed 65 credit hours of coursework to earn their associate’s degree in business administration.

A release from Northeast State Community College said this is the first class of graduates at the NECX to earn degrees through the Correctional Education Initiative, which Gov. Bill Lee introduced to help expand higher education opportunities for those incarcerated within the Tennessee Department of Correction.

“The students were engaged and truly wanted to learn,” said Suzanne Lyle, assistant professor of mathematics at Northeast State. “They ask interesting, intelligent questions; their desire is high, and they want to get it and get it right.”

The 13 grads were honored at a ceremony held at the NECX while surrounded by the Northeast State faculty that taught the students on-site and via Zoom classes. Of those thirteen students, the release states, “Six students are being inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society for community college students achieving high academic success.” Those six students earned their degrees with a 4.0 Grade Point Average, the release said.

“Our focus at NECX and throughout TDOC is the rehabilitation of the offender population,” said Brian Eller, Warden at NECX. “We know that by providing offenders with the tools and resources they need to grow personally and professionally we’re ensuring they are better prepared for success upon their release.”