On to the future

FDCF inmates graduate from Iowa Central

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari Kodi Hettinger, left, an inmate at Fort Dodge Correctional Facility, gets a hug from his grandma, Donna Fischer, at his graduation ceremony Thursday.

It’s not just traditional students who are taking part in graduation season this spring.

Inmates at the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility also took part in a commencement ceremony Thursday, as 86 of them graduated from a number of vocational programs offered through Iowa Central Community College.

Programs included high school equivalency, vocational technology welding, welding, supply chain management and culinary baking, as well as one inmate who graduated with an apprenticeship.

The partnership with Iowa Central dates back to when the prison opened in 1998.

Jerry Bartruff, director of the Iowa Department of Corrections, gave the keynote speech at the ceremony.

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari The Fort Dodge Correctional Facility inmates graduating with skills they learned from Iowa Central Community College sit in the prison's gym as the ceremony begins.

Bartruff focused his speech on three separate quotes from Yogi Berra, the legendary professional baseball player.

The first “Yogi-ism,” as Bartruff called it, was “Baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical.”

While the quote doesn’t seem to make sense mathematically, Bartruff explained the context of it is what matters.

“What we do and accomplish in life is 90 percent mental and the other half is behavior,” he said.

Attitudes of people impact their behavior, he said.

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari Jerry Bartruff, director of the Iowa Department of Corrections, gives the keynote speech at the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility graduation.

“The connection between how we think and how we behave is critical in being successful when you return back to our communities,” he said.

The second Berra quote, or “strike two,” was “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might end up somewhere else.”

“If you’re going to be successful, you need to have a plan,” Bartruff said.

He added that those who work in corrections have seen what successful inmates do once they’re released.

“What does being successful look like for you?” Bartruff asked. “To me, it’s creating a pathway for you to be successful.”

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari Kevin Voyna, a Fort Dodge Correctional Facility inmate, stands with his Leader Dog, Bill, as he waits for his name to be called at graduation. Voyna completed the culinary baking program offered to inmates through Iowa Central Community College.

The final quote Bartruff touched on was “The future ain’t what it used to be.”

He said, while the inmates have been incarcerated, the outside world has changed. But there’s also parts of it that haven’t changed.

What hasn’t changed, he said, are the relationships the inmates have with their family and friends that showed up at the prison to celebrate their graduation.

“You need to have a plan,” Bartruff said. “You need to follow that plan and you need to be thinking about where you’re going and where you get there with the end in mind.”

He also told the inmates that he and the rest of the Department of Corrections expect great futures from the inmates.

“You are the people that the Department of Corrections supports, challenges and invests in,” he said. “We expect great things from you.”

“Congratulations,” he added. “You’ve done a great job with what you’ve accomplished.”