AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - Dustin Montano, an inmate at the Potter County Detention Center, was the first student to successfully receive his GED through a program offered by the Potter County Sheriff's Office.
The GED program was a dream of Sheriff Thomas' from the beginning.
After a year in operation, it now has its first graduate.
"I can't tell you how proud I am of him," said Potter County Sheriff Brian Thomas. "It takes a lot of work to do this and to sit down and make the decision that I want to change my life and that I want to go somewhere, and he's doing it."
It took a team for Dustin to be able to stand in his cap and gown and flip the tassel.
"The people around me, the teachers, my cellmates all give me the support I need to progress," said Dustin Montano.
The inmates in attendance were reminded it only takes one step to make a change and say they now have a role model amongst them.
"It makes me cry. I'm really fighting it having to do this," said Doug Curry, coordinator for No Excuses University Schools. "Because this is what this is about. As we talked about a while ago, we don't care what you've done. What we care is what you decide today to do about today and tomorrow."
"So many people don't think they can do this or that they want it," said Kathy Hazelwood, a retired AISD educator who is teaching the GED program at the detention center. "I think his tenacity. All the things that everybody said today to Dustin to the rest of my guys is absolutely the truth. This opens so many doors for them."
Dustin said his path for success is only just beginning. He hopes to work on wind turbines one day.
"We are going to get Dustin in college," said Hazelwood.
"Through the GED I've gotten some college credits, I think that would be awesome. I'm ready," said Dustin.
He calls coming to the detention center and being around his cellmates a blessing in disguise.
"Where I was at wasn't where I needed to be, coming here and getting my mind right and utilizing all the programs that Potter County has to offer has really helped me," said Dustin. "Hopefully they get something out of it to maybe some ambition to speed things up, get to work so they can graduate as well."
Dustin's family wasn't at his graduation, but he hopes they can see the steps he's taking to turn his life around and be proud.
"If they're watching the news and hopefully they'll see it. They will be," said Dustin.
The Sheriff's Office and everyone involved hopes the program will continue to flourish and serve as a beacon of hope for inmates who want a second chance at an education.
They're hoping to offer college courses for the students in the future.