Spring Creek School Graduation: We Did It

20120622_HL_Spring_Creek_Graduation_1Class of 2012

The final six graduates received a high school diploma on June 21, 2012. It was a bittersweet day of celebration and even a few tears at the KPBSD Spring Creek School. Keynote speaker Craig Turnbull, the Spring Creek Correctional Superintendent said, “They told us years ago it would never work. You guys have done it. You’ve used the tools … it’s a choice you’ve made. They said we couldn’t do it in a maximum security prison; we did it. You did it.”

20120622_HL_Spring_Creek_Graduation_2Congratulations Class of 2012

The young men—six receiving a high school diploma, and two receiving post-secondary degrees—listened thoughtfully when Turnbull spoke, as well as when Dr. Steve Atwater, KPBSD Superintendent, Joe Schmidt, the Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Corrections, and two of their classmates spoke.


Graduate Miller said, “The teachers were there to help us get back on track. Here we sit with our heads held high. Reaching graduation took a lot of self-discipline. We are not just inmates … we are people, human beings.” The second student speaker, Graduate Swensen offered, “If someone were to come to jail right now, I’d recommend they go to high school.”

20120622_HL_Spring_Creek_Graduation_4Craig Turnbull, SCCC Superintendent

An impressive partnership between the Department of Corrections and a school district, the main focus is education for the incarcerated men. At this school located inside a maximum security prison, students learn to make choices, good choices that become habits, and build self-respect. Family members attended the graduation, and many of the inmates who were present at the commencement value the school, and encouraged the students. Turnbull reminded the young men: “You’ve learned to trust authority figures and see beyond what is in these walls. You’ve all stubbed your toes. It doesn’t mean you can’t go on walking.”

20120622_HL_Spring_Creek_Graduation_5Line up time for graduation

As a final assignment Principal Monica Hinders asked the graduates to write their thoughts regarding school and their teachers. When asked about the best part of school they replied:

• “The best part about school is learning new stuff and making new friends.”

• “School gave me the opportunity to better myself as a person and to make something of myself.”

• “The best part about school is talking with the teachers, especially Mr. Blount.”

• “The best part about going to school is seeing that there are people who want to see prisoners succeed.  There are not many people who would wake up Monday through Friday to come work with prisoners and assist them in obtaining a high school diploma. The teachers saw us as people, not just criminals.”

Principal Hinders also asked about the most important things learned at Spring Creek School. Responses included:

• “There were many things I learned here at Spring Creek High School. The two most important things I learned were self-motivation and self-discipline.”

• “I’ve learned that hard work will pay for itself.”

• “The most important thing I’ve learned is humility, respect for myself and others, and discipline.”

20120622_HL_Spring_Creek_Graduation_6Spring Creek Principal Hinders, teachers and Dr. Atwater, KPBSD Superintendent  

Dr. Steve Atwater, KPBSD superintendent said, “ The YOP started as an idea and ended as a successful high school for incarcerated youth.   In the beginning, Spring Creek Prison, the Department of Corrections and the school district all recognized that the YOP would take a lot of work and necessarily require regular changes.  The students graduating today are evidence that all the work was worth it.”

20120622_HL_Spring_Creek_Graduation_7Spring Creek School in SCCC

Spring Creek School will close June 30, 2012, and move to Anchorage School District (ASD) where it will be called The New Path High School. ASD and the Department of Corrections will be ready to begin instruction for students in August.

20120622_HL_Spring_Creek_Graduation_8They worked hard, ready to be acknowledged and receive diplomas

The Alaska Department of Corrections Commissioner Joe Schmidt explained the importance of working with the third of the prisoner population that is amenable to change. He said the time was right to “shuffle the deck” and move the school (known as the Youthful Offender Program (YOP) within the Department of Corrections) in order to become more efficient and house inmates by the type of offender. The school move was announced in the fall of 2011, and Schmidt explained at that time, “The Youthful Offender Program is moving because of a bed issue” and can be better served at the Anchorage Correctional Complex, a multi-custody correctional facility with several dorms in an array of sizes.

More than 200 students have received their high school diploma from Spring Creek School.


KPBSD October 20, 2011, Press Release: Spring Creek School closing June 30, 2012 
“Prison High School Graduates Record Class”
KTUU.com, Channel 2 News, May 27, 2011 (link no longer available)
“Spring Creek Graduation Instills Hope and Purpose”
Seward City News, May 24, 2010 (link no longer available)