Joshua Gergish was extremely happy Thursday afternoon as he held his 4-year-old son and his newly-earned general education diploma.
Gergish is an inmate in the Washington County Detention Center. He was one of 17 inmates to be awarded their GEDs Thursday.
“I’m sitting here doing time and I figured I would better myself with what time I have, so I enlisted in the GED,” Gergish said shortly after the GED graduation ceremony at the jail, his son hugging his father around the neck.
Gergish began serving his sentence six months ago and will be released in December. He never graduated from high school, but said Thursday he wanted a better life for himself and his family.
“I don’t know what career I want but the reason I took (the GED) is for a better career, for my son, my family, to support them,” Gergish said.
The GED is equivalent to a high school diploma, a necessary item for many jobs. The inmates, wearing the traditional academic regalia of caps and gowns and entering the ceremony area to “Pomp and Circumstance,” were told Thursday that, on average, people with high school diplomas or GEDs earn about $9,600 more per year than someone who has not earned a degree.
The GED tests reading, writing, math, social studies and science and is nationally standardized. The WCDC administration partners with the Johnson City School System to offer the program.
“Studying for it was hard and there was certain parts on the test that was hard,” Gergish said. “But they give you time to study. They work with you. If you pay attention you’ll pass.”
Washington County Sheriff Ed Graybeal said Thursday’s graduation was the third such ceremony at the jail. Many inmates, like Gergish, had family present to witness their accomplishment.
“With the family members and everybody here it really means a lot to the guys and gals who graduated,” Graybeal said. “It’s good for us and it gives them a reason not to come back in this jail.”
Graybeal reminded the inmates they could now confidently mark that they had a high school or GED on any job application.
“Now they can get a job, now they can sign on there that they have a high school education,” Graybeal said. “A GED makes a huge difference in someone’s life.
“It makes me proud to know that we’re doing something good for the community, to help better the community instead of just letting them sit in here until they go home,” Graybeal said. “This is a chance for them to revise their life and do something different.”