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GED score helps inmate earn honors

September 22, 1998|By MARLO BARNHART

Michael Miller recently did something to make his mom proud - he earned his high school diploma with honors.

Miller's only regret is that he didn't do it sooner and that it took place behind bars.

The Harford County native scored 310 on the GED exam at the Maryland Correctional Training Center. A perfect score is 380 and anyone who gets more than 300 is recognized with a certificate of membership to the "300 club."

Miller, 22, said the test was not easy. It required problem-solving ability and the need to read and write quickly and well, he said.

He attributed his success to the great staff at MCTC and to his own changed attitude.

"I had just turned 18 when I committed a burglary," Miller said. He got caught and was sentenced to prison.

He said his story is a familiar one for prison inmates. He dropped out of high school before graduation and couldn't get a job because he had no education and no skills.

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The burglary was a dumb idea to get money to support himself, Miller said.

Miller was 21 when he arrived to MCTC, the largest prison in Maryland. It also has an educational program headed by Daphne Mathews, principal.

MCTC boasts the highest number of GED graduates of any institution in the Maryland Division of Correction.

"It came to me slowly ... that I needed an education," Miller said. "I knew I had to go back to school."

Miller applied himself to his studies and did well, as shown by his score on the GED test.

"This was Mike's wake-up call," Mathews said as she met with Miller a few days after the graduation ceremony at the prison.

At that Sept. 10 ceremony, Mathews read a letter from state Commissioner of Correction Richard Lanham congratulating the 218 inmates on their achievements, both educationally and vocationally.

Miller, as the designated spokesman of his GED class, also said a few words. He told his story of how he got to prison and how he saw the light.

Since earning his diploma, Miller has been working in the education department as a teacher's aide.

"When they called me about that, I couldn't believe it," Miller said. "Now I watch others studying and I can help them."

His next goal is to get into one of the many vocational programs available in the prison shops so he'll have a skill when he gets out.

"I'm going to send my mom my certificates," Miller said. "She's been trying to get me to get my GED for years and I finally did."

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