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Three inmates graduate from IGNITE program


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    GENESEE COUNTY, Michigan (WNEM) — The Genesee County Sheriff’s inmate rehabilitation program celebrated the latest three graduates on Wednesday.

Joe Walker, Delante Darrough, and Dallas Whiting-Popielski are the latest graduates of IGNITE, a rehabilitation program that helps inmates with prior felonies. After eight weeks of more than 200 hours of food service training and passing a federally written test, the three are now qualified to work in any kitchen in the country.

“When I first got here, I was very low, very depressed, had no idea what I was going to do when I got out of here,” Popielski said. “To come here and be given an opportunity to change my life, I’m eternally grateful.”

“I got into some trouble and I’ve always been a fan of cooking in the kitchen,” Walker said. “I’ve learned how to run a kitchen, how to manage a kitchen, learned more about myself, how I can tackle challenges.”

They were surprised to see just how much support they received at Wednesday’s graduation.

“This is really impressive. This is really important and I’m so glad that I was able to be here,” Congressman Dan Kildee said.

Family members even surprised the inmates over Zoom and in-person to witness the ceremony. The inmates were also surprised with multiple job offers.

“On behalf of GCARD and our executive director, we give you a contingent job offer when you come out,” said Gary West, with GCARD.

“Starlite Coney Island Court Street and Center Road is offering a competitive off. Full-time, $13 an hour, which normally they start less than that,” Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson said.

But for them, it’s not just a job. It’s a second chance at life.

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