High school graduation is a momentous occasion, and usually one filled with friends and families.
But, for the youth at the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), the celebration occurred minus families for the third consecutive year due to Covid-19 precautions. Overall, the graduations scored a net plus in achievement and personal satisfaction.
During June ceremonies, approximately 60 DJJ youth graduates received high school diplomas or GEDs. The diplomas are granted by the California Education Authority, the fully accredited school district encompassing all DJJ high schools:
- Johanna Boss and Chaderjian in Stockton
- Pine Grove in Amador County
- and Mary B. Perry in Ventura County.
Encouraging youth to be proud of achievements
Class of ’22 grads, wearing caps and gowns, participated in a processional to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance.”
Noting the musical piece’s history, Chaderjian commencement speaker and school psychologist Dr. Jahmon Gibbs, said it was traditionally used in the coronation of kings. He encouraged youth to feel pride in the occasion, marking their educational journey with a musical coda.
“I’ve experienced it four times in my life: graduating high school, when I got my bachelor’s degree, my master’s and my doctorate,” Gibbs said. “Each one was a coronation.”
Mary B. Perry commencement speaker Tarik Ross, Jr., program director of the Prison Education Project (PEP), urged youth to continue their educational journeys. PEP brings programs like Project Rebound into facilities, connecting justice-involved people with higher education opportunities.
Mary B. Perry principal Dr. Harry Obiako spoke about the principles of success drawn from inspirational speaker Brian Tracy. They were:
- The power of potential
- controlling emotions and keeping a good attitude
- developing character
- making goals
- choosing positive influences and mentors
- overcoming obstacles
- and making sound decisions.
It was a message taken to heart by DJJ youth Kamryn M. who received special mention for earning an Associate Degree in Behavioral Science from Mission College. It was the first A.A. degree earned by a DJJ youth in a decade.
Valedictorian to DJJ graduates: Education is essential for personal growth
Chaderjian valedictorian Yumi P. spoke about having self-knowledge of the impacts of his negative choices. He encouraged the graduates to overcome obstacles through education.
“It costs a lot to be a shining light in a world of darkness,” Yumi said. “To do the right thing, you have to go through many trials and difficulties. To be a responsible or respectful person, we must pass tests of bravery and sincerity. Today I tell you that education prepares us for all of it.”
Educational achievement is a hallmark of DJJ. More than 80 percent of DJJ youth are high school graduates or have GEDs. Another 16 percent are currently enrolled in college courses offered by community colleges and San Francisco State University.