Chaffey Celebrates Graduates at California Institution for Men

May 16, 2024

Superintendent/President Henry D. Shannon speaks at CIM commencement

James Menefield stood inside the gymnasium of the California Institution for Men before a gathering of fellow students, faculty and staff in graduation regalia.

Though his experience as a Chaffey College student has been unique in prison, he said the professors and staff never made him feel different.

“You never treated us like prisoners,” he said. “Instead, you treated us like students and held us to a higher standard.”

Menefield and 20 other students in CIM’s third graduating class celebrated completion of academic programs on Friday May 10, earning 30 associate’s degrees and 47 certificates. Two of the students who had been paroled were expected to walk in Chaffey’s 107th commencement ceremony at Toyota Arena the following week.

Chaffey College Superintendent/President Henry D. Shannon praised graduates, saying that their achievements will make a profound difference on their lives.

“You’re changing the dynamic of your own families,” he said. “You’re role models.”

Chaffey’s Rising Scholars program, previously known as Turning Point, has served nearly 1,000 students in CIM and the California Institution for Women. The program began in 2004 with 26 students in CIW, with the goal of helping women earn an associate’s degree in three years, and eventually expanded to CIM. Since it began Rising Scholars students have passed 94 percent of the classes they have attempted.

CIM Acting Warden Travis Pennington congratulated students on their achievements and urged them to continue to learn and grow.

“This is one of my favorite occasions,” Pennington said. “Graduations are such a positive celebration and we don’t have a lot of those here.”

Bryan Shepherd, who served as class speaker with Menefield, said Chaffey faculty and staff changed his perspective on life. He encouraged his classmates to keep not stop learning.

“The future belongs to those who persevere,” he said.