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Juvenile facility holds first coed high school graduation

by KDOC News — last modified Jan 17, 2019 11:32 AM
Kansas Juvenile Correctional Complex (KJCC) held its first coed high school graduation recently with a class of 24 juveniles.

Lawrence Gardner High School
(LGHS), housed at KJCC, held a semi-annual graduation ceremony on December 21, 2018 in front of a gymnasium filled with students' family members and mentors, juvenile facility residents, LGHS teachers and staff, Kansas Department of Corrections staff and representatives from the Kansas State Department of Education. In a separate ceremony held the day before, 33 juveniles received program certificates from Washburn University Institute of Technology (Washburn Tech). 

One of the graduates, J.B. from Wichita shared insights from some of the lessons he has learned as a LGHS student. J.B. said he had to ask himself what he wanted from the rest of his life.

"It is important to accept that we all make mistakes in life, and that doesn’t make you a bad person," J.B. told the audience. "It makes you human. When we fall, are we going to stay down? It is important to get back up.”

KJCC Superintendent Wendy Leiker, who joined the facility in August, remarked on the pride represented in the smiling faces of the graduates' families.

"If you have raised a child, you know that sometimes all you focus on or hear about is what your child did wrong," she said. "Today’s focus is on what is going right with your son or daughter.”

Leiker said though graduates rarely remember the speeches of their commencement speakers, she wanted the graduates to remember how they felt upon earning their diplomas.

"I want you to have that feeling of pride and accomplishment and that is something that cannot be taken from you and will last a lifetime," she said. “You have shown today that you can rise. Congratulations on this tremendous accomplishment.” 

Echoing the statements of the graduation's student speaker J.B., Leiker closed with a paraphrase of a lyric by Grammy-winning rap artist, T.I. whose music often reflects lessons from his own time in prison.

“Let me tell you about how you measure a woman/man
When the world starts to fall
See how tall you stand
It matters not how many times you fall down
What matters most is how many times you rise”


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