FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - A unique program in Genesee County that provides opportunity for those who are incarcerated held its 18th commencement ceremony today.
I.G.N.I.T.E. stands for Inmate Growth Nationally and Internationally Through Education. This program offers a hand-up to the recently incarcerated while behind bars.
IGNITE mission is to help inmates obtain their GED, gain college credits or learn a skilled trade all while incarcerated.
Reaching its 18th commencement with a special surprise as alumnus Darrell Brown shares his success story.
"Went to jail, got out of jail, went to jail again, got out of jail, went to jail again and people started to look at me like that's all he's going to be," said Brown.
Darrel Brown, once a frequent returning inmate of Genesee County Jail now holds the title of CEO of his production company, Brown Boy Productions.
He pays homage to IGNITE - a program that is offered to give inmates that were once like Darell a chance at a new life once released.
"A lot of the guys that I just saw, I was on the inside with them. Just like them I was a part of that community," Brown said. "And I would want somebody that's just like me to come and support and to show that you can make it."
Now, a keynote speaker at the 18th IGNITE commencement ceremony - though just two years ago Darell says that he was reluctant to give the program a try.
"At first it was just to get out of my cell," he said. "But then after listening to them and then giving it some good thought and actually utilizing it, it changed the way that I thought and it really gave me something that I can take with me."
That choice, changed Darell for the better - pushing him to accomplish what others saw all along, others like Johnell Allen-Bey - Executive Director for Community Engagement of Genesee County Sheriff's Office.
"It's exciting to see his growth and see how he's taken this concept, he's used the tools and he's doing well. He's a success story and that's what it's all about," Allen-Bey said. "We hear this thing about prison reform right, and we want to cut those numbers in half by 2032 but what we've learned is - we need jail reform because in order for us to cut those numbers it starts at the front door of the jail."
A journey of a thousand miles continues for Darell as he prepares for what's to come.
"I'm going to start motivational speaking to be able to come on the inside of the jail just to give hope," said Brown.
The IGNITE program has now expanded - Hennepin County, Minnesota adopted the concept naming their program H.O.P.E. which stands for Helping Others by Providing Education.