Student Graduates with full high school diploma in Jail
Javonta Norfleet had one semester left to finish at Booker T. Washington, when he was charged with robbery, and sentenced to serve three years.
Where one might see a disappointing situation, Teacher Donita Gordon saw hope. She worked with graduation coach Stephanie Hazell at Booker T. Washington to bring all of Norfleet’s assignments to jail.
This partnership between Norfolk Public Schools and the Norfolk Sheriff’s Office started in 2001 with the “No Child Left Behind Act.”
While several students have earned their GEDs and special diplomas in jail, Gordon wanted to take the program a step further. She wanted Norfleet to earn his standard diploma, where a student must earn at least 22 credits and pass all SOL tests.grad4
“Javonta worked tirelessly, night and day. Surprisingly, he received a lot of encouragement from other inmates. They would walk by and give him the fist pump,” Gordon said.
While working with Norfleet, Gordon realized his brother was also graduating from Booker T. Washington this year. “These brothers will graduate from Booker T. at two different locations, but both will receive the same diploma,” Gordon remarked.
A graduation ceremony was held inside the Norfolk City Jail on June 11th, where a Regent University Professor encouraged the students to continue with their education.
Eight other incarcerated students received special diplomas, meaning they can attend vocational school and can work on earning their GEDs.
Norfleet has one more year left to serve on his sentence, but he plans to enroll in Tidewater Community College as soon as he is released.
His teacher hopes his story will serve as a lesson for others.
“Other youth need to know you can get off track, but your life and fate isn’t over yet. You have an opportunity to get back on track,” Gordon said.