By Ben Nakamura, principal
Eight Juvenile Court and Community Schools (JCCS) students in East Mesa Juvenile Detention Facility’s Youthful Offenders Unit graduated from high school in July as part of three separate graduation ceremonies, and I was given the honor of conferring diplomas to the graduates.
My greatest challenge was refraining from tears. Think of how significant the event is. A student detained in a juvenile hall for committing a crime—a setback, to say the least—is earning a high school diploma, a pivotal step forward. To see that glimmer of hope in the midst of challenging circumstances is inspirational.
The graduates were given a chance to share their experiences in the program before their peers were able to publicly congratulate and encourage them. The kind words and respect shown toward one another is a testament to the positive impact that probation and JCCS educators are having on the students. Probation officers also publicly congratulate the students. I appreciated the caring that the officers showed for the students. It was evident that genuine mentoring had taken place.
An entire ceremony was conducted for only one or two students, sending the message our students that they are valued and important. These are two things that are often lacking for our most at-risk students.
These graduations were more impactful and meaningful than any other I have ever attended at any grade level.