ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It was, after all, a commencement ceremony. With Sir Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” filling the air, 10 smiling graduates strode proudly into the room, their black caps and gowns stating the obvious.
Family members also beamed with pride, and several teachers seemed to be near tears.
But this high school graduation was different. The Gordon Bernell Charter School graduates, all men, are also inmates at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center.
As if to underscore the point, their orange jumpsuits and flip-flops screamed out from below the hems of their gowns, a reminder that while the diplomas they earned might eventually serve to open some doors, others would remain locked, some perhaps for a very long time.
Principal Dan Busse, noting that “our students are obviously a unique set of individuals,” had nothing but words of encouragement: “Gentlemen, this is your day. … Today you are high school graduates. … You did something good. … This means something.”
The latest crop of graduates brought the number of Gordon Bernell alumni to well over 300 in eight years. Ceremonies are held twice annually. Six other graduates will pick up diplomas at Gordon Bernell’s sister campus on Roma Avenue. Some of the six have been released; others are imprisoned.