Student chooses to graduate inside jail as inspiration

ST. LOUIS — It was a special day at the medium security institution on Hall street in St. Louis.  A high school graduation was held inside the jail for one deserving woman.

Mekayla Thomas made history by becoming the first female graduate of the St. Louis 24-hour virtual Workforce High School. The 19-year-old chose to have her celebration behind bars, where she has spent much of the last 3 years.

"I just got butterflies. I felt famous!” said Mekayla Thomas.

Thomas had been in and out of jail for stealing cars and breaking into houses. Then one day she realized a better life was possible.

“Coming back to jail. Tired of coming back and forth since I was 16. Three years of my life in jail,” said Thomas.

Mekayla worked hard with mentors from Workforce High School while in jail and was encouraged by fellow inmates.

“It is so exciting!! Amazing, inspiring, empowering, its everything!” said Director of Workforce Dr. Alice Prince.

Representatives from Senators Blunt's office, St. Louis Public Schools, state lawmakers and Mayor Krewson's office attended the ceremony.

"All of the other women want to sign up. All of them know they can do it and make their lives better. That's what we need," said Dr. Prince.

Mekayla, who was recently released, could have had her graduation at the mayor's office but she chose cell block 4. So many people signed up to come that they moved it to jail gym.

Shelonda Williams, Mekayla's mentor at Workforce says, “I've seen her transition from immature to mature, and grow the entire process.”

"Dreams can come true, stay strong, you can do it. There are people to motivate you. You can do it,” said Mekayla Thomas.

Mekayla is also going to college now. She earned a two year scholarship at Forest Park-St. Louis Community College and she says will become a funeral director.