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Where Are They Now Alumni Profile – Meet Michael Hale

photo of Michael Hale with text: Where Are They Now Alumni Profile – Meet Michael Hale

Rio Degree Launches Graduate’s Career Options Post-Release

By Mira Radovich, Senior Contributing Writer

Getting off track in life is easy and happens to the best of us. Putting yourself back can be a challenge. But when you succeed, and thrive, as did Rio Salado College alum Michael Hale, you see how it was all worth it in the end.

Hale spent nine years in prison, and rather than dwell on past mistakes, he decided to make a change.

“I wanted to do something meaningful with my time in prison,” Hale said. “Rio provided a way to ensure that I would leave prison in a better place than when I got there.”

During his incarceration, Hale learned that he could take college classes through Rio Salado College’s Incarcerated Re-entry (IRE) program.

The IRE program allows students to take correspondence classes state-wide, or onsite career and technical training classes at the Lewis and Perryville complexes.

“I also wanted to obtain a degree through Rio so I could further my education post-release more easily,” Hale said.

Hale’s favorite Rio Salado class was Philosophy 101.

“It was thought provoking, engaging, and challenged me the most out of all my classes,” he said. 

In 2020, Hale completed his associate of arts degree through Rio Salado and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in communications.

“I learned a lot through my courses at Rio, and by having my degree, I was able to transfer my degree to the University of Phoenix and enroll in my bachelor's program,” Hale said. “I will graduate in November, and plan to use that degree to pursue a career as a communication specialist.”

Currently, Hale works as an firefighter/intelligence officer for the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management.

“One reason I took my current job is that I work closely with the inmate firefighting program that I was once a part of,” Hale said.

Hale is grateful that he had the opportunity to better himself and his career options through education. He advises others who may in a similar life situation to stay focused.

“Prioritize your schoolwork, continue to pursue your education, dedicate time to your studies and learn as much as possible so that you can be in a better position once you are released,” Hale said. 

As he reflects on his past, Hale remains positive and introspective.

“Having a degree when I walked out of prison was proof that I did not waste the time away,” Hale said. “I took advantage of the amazing opportunity that Rio gave me. I was in prison for nine years and Rio helped me achieve my educational goals.”

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