Nashville, Tenn. (TN Tribune)-Eight women at the Debra K. Johnson Rehabilitation Center made history yesterday as they graduated from the Lipscomb University LIFE Program with their Master of Arts in Christian Ministry.

The women were part of a group of 13 inmates participating in University’s Lipscomb Initiative for Education (LIFE) Program at the Debra K. Johnson Rehabilitation Center.

Of the 13 graduates, two women graduated with their Associate of Arts degree, three with their Bachelor of Professional Studies degrees and eight students with their Master of Arts in Christian Ministry (MACM) degree.

In addition, five outside students who have studied alongside the graduate students inside the prison for the last four years will also receive their MACM degrees. This is the first-time master’s degrees will be awarded through the LIFE program.

The Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) teamed up with Lipscomb 15 years ago to make this opportunity available to offenders. Today, the hard work and perseverance of these women paid off.

The graduation ceremony was a traditional commencement with faculty and students wearing regalia and processing into the ceremony. As part of the Lipscomb program, these inmates have received face-to-face instruction from university professors and have studied side-by-side traditional Lipscomb undergraduate students at the prison each Wednesday night through the Lipscomb LIFE program. Both the “inside” students and the “outside” students earn college credit for these courses. This culminates nearly a decade of study and work for many of the women and 15 years for four of the master’s candidates. This is the fifth cohort of inmates to receive their degrees through the LIFE program since its inception in 2007.