Division of Juvenile Justice, Rehabilitation

DJJ holds final high school graduation

College, school and principal with three youth at the Division of Juvenile Justice high school graduation.
From left are SFSU Professor Carlos Ernesto Cuauhtemoc Hagedorn, Project Rebound Executive Director Jason Bell, Superintendent of CEA Kim Rigg, youth Skye S., youth Bailey M., teacher Luke Salzarulo, youth Tamir W., and Mary B. Perry High School Principal Dr. Harry Obiako.

Youth earn over 5 dozen diplomas, certificates

With the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) closing this year, the final high school graduation was held in January rather than May.

Given the realities of juvenile justice realignment, graduation ceremonies were held at N.A. Chaderjian High School (NACHS) in Stockton and Ventura Youth Correctional Facility’s Mary B. Perry High School (MBPHS).

A Graduation and Certification Luncheon Program was held to commemorate important academic and certification achievements for youth at DJJ facilities. 

During the ceremonies at MBPHS, 11 youth received high school diplomas, four received Ethnic Studies certification from San Francisco State University (SFSU) and 14 received athletic training certificates.

NACHS celebrated the graduation of 25 youth and nine youth who received their certificate in Ethnic Studies from SFSU. The event was a simple yet enjoyable celebration for the youth. Before receiving their certificates and diplomas, involved youth were treated to a lunch served by the education staff.

NACHS speakers included Principal Dr. Mike Horwood and Jason Bell, Director of Programs for Project Rebound (SFSU).

Bell provided words of encouragement, speaking about his own experience as an incarcerated youth. He discussed his passion for education and his determination to ensure adjudicated youth continue their education when they are paroled.

Words of encouragement for graduates

At MBPHS, attendees included Kim Rigg, Superintendent of Education for the California Education Authority; Dr. Harry Obiako, Principal of Mary B. Perry High School; and George Castellanos, Acting Superintendent of VYCF; as well as facility staff and faculty. 

Dr. Obiako cautioned students not to be afraid of failure.

“Failure is in some cases a prerequisite for success, but you have to remain resilient, persevere, and also persist. So I want you to see difficulties you may face as something that comes not to obstruct, but to instruct,” he said. “Use any failure as a teachable moment not as a reason to give up.” 

MBPHS keynote speaker Carlos Ernesto Cuauhtemoc Hagedorn, Educational Consultant and lecturer on Race and Resistance studies from SFSU, also delivered inspirational words.

MPBHS Athletic Fitness Teacher Vanessa Juarez, who awarded students training certificates, congratulated them for their hard work.

“Life is like a deck of cards and we do not get to choose the hand we are dealt. We have to make the best of it. When we win, we don’t focus on all the times we lost,” Juarez said.

Despite DJJ’s pending closure, staff continue providing trauma-informed care and will do so until the last youth is transferred to their county of commitment. 

By Karette Fussell and DJJ education staff

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