Two inmates at Pelican Bay State Prison received their associate of arts degree from College of the Redwoods on Thursday.

David Nguyen and Larry Vickers received degrees in liberal arts: behavioral sciences and gave addresses to their families, classmates and more than a dozen CR faculty and staff at a graduation ceremony. The two students are the first graduating class of the Pelican Bay Scholars program, according to a college press release.

"This day for me is a very special day, for it marks the day that validates dreaming," Nguyen said in his speech. "My parents dreamt that I would one day obtain a college degree. I dreamt about it, but I neglected to put in the work."

Nguyen finished his address by urging his fellow classmates to follow his example.

"I dared to dream. I dare you too," he said.

In his address Vickers called the Pelican Bay Scholars program one of the transformative forces at the super-max institution.

"What was once a dark and dreary place is now lively and bustling with men moving back and forth to class with books and folders in tow," he said. "Individuals who never conversed and disliked one another due to ignorance are now engaged in conversations about history, psychology, art, biology, social work, political science and business."

Pelican Bay State Prison began offering face-to-face college courses in partnership with College of the Redwoods about three years ago. More than 300 prisoners are enrolled in the program, taking classes in math, psychology, biology and English, according to the press release.

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