TARBORO, N.C. (WNCN) — It’s graduation week for more than a dozen fathers at the Edgecombe County Detention Center.

“Man, that’s big. To somebody else that may be small, but to them that was big,” said Dr. Mark Dickens. “For them to have that certificate in their hands that says I accomplished this and show it to their children. Look, baby, this is what daddy did.”

Dickens is the chaplain for the Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office and one of the instructors of the Inside Out Dad program.

“All of us together, our jail administrator, Capt. Washington, and the lieutenants, we came together to generate that to the inmates so they can know we are standing behind you. We don’t condone what you’ve done, but we do want you to know that it’s not over. Life is not over,” Dickens said.

Dickens said they started working on the program last year. It is under the umbrella of the National Fatherhood Initiative.

It’s a five-week course that teaches male inmates how to become better fathers.

Instructors teach the men about being a part of their children’s lives and building relationships with their children and their child’s mother.

The men even develop a plan for when they are out of jail.

This week’s graduating class of 13 fathers was the first to complete the program with the sheriff’s office.

Dickens said the experience was just as special for the instructors involved.

“We are all dads. I got two twin boys and two daughters. All three of us (instructors), you can tell by the look on our faces when we presented those certificates to those inmates, you can see the enthusiasm in the instructors. I know I had it,” said Dickens.

He said in May they will bring in the next class of fathers to go through the program.

Link to National Fatherhood Initiative – InsideOut Dad