Nearly three decades after their wrongful conviction for the rape of a jogger, three members of the Central Park Five walked onstage Monday in New York to receive their high-school diplomas. The New York Times reports Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson, and Raymond Santana Jr. were presented with honorary diplomas from Bronx Preparatory High School. "When we went to prison, this was taken away from us," Santana says. "We've finally found redemption." The three men received GEDs and associate degrees while in prison, but never had a ceremony. Salaam says "being honored in such a way in front of our family and friends ... is a blessing." The other two men—Kharey Wise and Antron McCray—will get their honorary diplomas in the mail.
The Central Park Five were convicted of raping a jogger in Central Park in 1989 while between the ages of 14 and 16. They spent between seven and 13 years in prison before being exonerated by DNA evidence and the confession of another man who said he acted alone. A teacher at Bronx Prep showed students a documentary on the case to teach them about the justice system, and students wondered if the men had ever graduated. On Monday, vice principal Cassius Gil introduced Salaam, Richardson, and Santana—all decked out in caps and gowns. "We promise not to take one moment of our free lives for granted," Gil said. "We will educate ourselves so that we stand for something larger rather than to fall for sensationalism, lies, and injustice." (Read more uplifting news stories.)