Trinidad State News

Twelve offenders receive college entrepreneur certificate in prison ceremony

Trinidad Campus / August, 2016 / Written by Greg Boyce

Trinidad Correctional Facility graduates

Graduates from the first entrepreneur program offered by Trinidad State Junior College at the Trinidad Correctional Facility. Back row - Leigh Burrows, TCF Programs Director, Ray Duran, Michael Fluegel, Matthew Zoll, Jesse Kaufman, Steve Carter, Benjamin Hervey, Derrick Maxfield, Pago Cobarrubias and Randy Quaduor. Front row - Christopher Wright, Instructor LiAnn Richardson, Carlos Alexander and Elijah Cogmon.

Trinidad State awarded Entrepreneurial Operations Certificates to a dozen prisoners at the Trinidad Correctional Facility at a ceremony on August 8. Wearing the blue caps and gowns of Trinidad State over their green prison uniforms, these men were hand-picked and dutifully attended class each Monday, Wednesday and Friday night since March.

Speakers at the ceremony included Trinidad State representatives, Corrections Department Major Patrick Fhuere, teacher LiAnn Richardson plus offenders Michael Fluegel, Jesse Kaufman and Mathew Zoll. The entrepreneur program was chosen because those released from prison often have a hard time getting jobs in the business world, and might do better starting their own business. Amazingly, about half this class voluntarily delayed their parole so they could graduate.

Fluegel encouraged his fellow graduates to not be “quick quitters” knowing the road ahead is still difficult. Jesse Kaufman, a high school dropout at 15, will pursue his dream of being a dog trainer. Mathew Zoll asked the group to leave the “shadows of our past” and move on to a brighter future.

The program is already considered a success and talks are ongoing between the Colorado Department of Corrections and Trinidad State in hopes of finding more classes which could be offered at Trinidad Correctional Facility.

The bond formed between these men and their teacher was readily apparent. At first, “It was really unnerving. It’s not somewhere you’d want to be,” said LiAnn Richardson. “But when you get into the classroom and you have students that are engaged you forget you’re in a prison. And that’s actually a challenge because I have to remember where I am. When you get into the classroom it would be just as if you were in any TSJC classroom really.”

More than fifty inmates are going through a process now, designed to narrow their number down to 15 who will start a new round of entrepreneur classes in September.