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 High School Diplomas Perfect Gift for JCCS Students

Imagine a large building buzzing with approximately 300 family members excited to see their son or daughter graduate from high school. This was the scene at the San Diego County Office of Education’s South County Regional Education Center on Dec. 12 when 35 Juvenile Court and Community Schools (JCCS) students graduated from high school.

“A JCCS graduation is a special event for so many reasons for our students who've overcome obstacles and checkered pasts,” said Leilah Kirkendoll, a JCCS principal. “Many times, they and their families have had doubts that this day would ever be possible. It is always great to be a part of such a grand celebration for our graduating students.”

One of the graduates told staff that teacher Edwin Piper would do anything to get students to come to class. When asked what kinds of things, Eduardo shared that Piper would call from blocked numbers because he knew students wouldn't answer his number. It worked, he said.

 “The graduation gave our JCCS youth the opportunity walk in celebration and unity,” said Jose Villarreal, senior director of the JCCS South Network. “They worked hard and will now have the opportunity to continue their education or a career path with a diploma in hand.”   

The graduates represented 18 South Network community schools from across the South Bay and East County. County Board of Education member Lyn Neylon, County Superintendent Randy Ward, JCCS leadership, faculty and staff all gathered to celebrate the students’ success.

The Dec. 12 event was the first time a large group of graduates was presented since a reorganization of JCCS that increased support from across the San Diego County Office (SDCOE). The new emphasis on working across teams and networks was visible to everyone, including custodian Dave Descoteaux.

“I saw the SDCOE team come together,” he wrote in an email after the ceremony. “Events like this make me proud to be part of the team!”

The Juvenile Court and Community Schools serve about 12,000 students each year in classrooms throughout the county. The educational program serves school-age youth who are either wards of the court or have been referred by social services, probation or one of the 42 school districts in San Diego County. Services are provided to incarcerated youth, pregnant minors, foster youth, expelled and chronically truant youth, students in drug treatment centers and group homes for neglected or abused children and homeless youth.

Photo: Eduardo Alcantar (left) and Robert Carrasco (right) were among the 35 students who graduated from Juvenile Court and Community Schools Dec. 12.