GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The first Kent County jail inmate to graduate from a new schooling program received her high school diploma Tuesday.
Brittany Rodgers, 18, is taking her sentence and using it to turn her life around. She says receiving her diploma is just the first towards the rest of her life, and her goals to get a college education.
In the company of her teachers, jail staff and the people closest to her, Rodgers swapped her jail uniform for a robe and became the Lighthouse Academy’s first Kent County jail graduate.
“Coming to jail I never would have thought I would get the chance to graduate,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers was sentenced in November to a year in jail for assault with intent to commit armed robbery. She has served about half her sentence.
“I was just doing bad things with my life,” said Rodgers.
Rodgers decided while serving out her sentence, she didn’t want to sulk in jail.
She is one of more than 20 students who are participating in Lighthouse Academy’s high school program. It was launched in September 2016.
“I’m deciding to make the best out of it and grow from my mistake,” she said.
Rodgers plans to attend Grand Rapids Community College when she is released from jail.
“Even if you make a mistake, you can learn from it and you can grow 10 times stronger than you ever have been before,” Rodgers said.
For roughly 25 years, the jail partnered with Grand Rapids Public Schools but due to funding and administrative issues it decided to partner with Lighthouse Academy this year.
“With changes in funding, changes in the school dynamics, administration — those kinds of things — we just wanted to know what other options we had,” Kent County Jail Inmate Programming Coordinator Robert Steele said.