This spring, 119 youth on OYA parole or probation across the state celebrated their graduations, taking an important step in their journeys to becoming crime-free and productive members of their communities.
Among those graduates, 79 earned their high school diplomas and 40 earned GEDs. Congratulations to these hard-working members of the Class of 2019!
Thanks to everyone who provided them with the guidance and support they needed along the way, including their families, residential providers, OYA foster parents, OYA facility staff, and their juvenile parole and probation officers. The JPPOs not only cheered on these youth at graduation, but they wanted to share some of the great successes they’ve seen this year. We’ve included some of those stories and photos below.
But first, the breakdown of numbers per region:
Central Region (Crook, Deschutes, Gilliam, Hood River, Jefferson, Sherman, Wasco, Wheeler counties): 7 high school diplomas, 2 GEDs
Clackamas County: 7 high school diplomas, 3 GEDs
Coos, Curry, and Douglas counties: 3 high school diplomas, 1 GED
Eastern Region: 6 high school diplomas
Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, and Lake counties: 8 high school diplomas, 11 GEDs
Lane County: 12 high school diplomas, 3 GEDs
Linn, Benton, Lincoln, Polk, and Yamhill counties: 14 high school diplomas, 4 GEDs
Marion County: 10 high school diplomas, 9 GEDs
Multnomah County: 1 high school diploma, 3 GEDs
Washington, Columbia, Clatsop, and Tillamook counties: 11 high school diplomas, 6 GEDs
Dashawn H., 18
Roberts High School, Salem
Dashawn has come a long way since he first entered OYA custody 2 ½ years ago, says Guy Hamilton, Dashawn’s juvenile parole and probation officer.
Struggling with mental health issues, a disability, and past neglect in his biological family, Dashawn had a tough time in OYA’s youth correctional facilities. His struggles continued after he paroled out.
But with a lot of help and support from Hamilton and his other caseworkers — plus his adoptive mom and a mentor from Big Brothers Big Sisters who visit him frequently at Connections 365 in Salem — Dashawn has been stable for the past six months and graduated June 5 from Roberts High School. He has also learned to take accountability for his behaviors and completed all his treatment at OYA.
“We weren’t expecting him to graduate with his diploma this year because he was missing some math credits,” Hamilton says. “But he worked really hard to finish.”
Dashawn and his adoptive mom, Shelley, advocated to get him into the math classes he needed. He completed all three in one semester, and made all A’s.
“He’s had a lot of challenges,” Hamilton says, “but since he’s been in the community, he’s been able to work through those.”
Dashawn loves gardening and working with animals — he helps care for the chickens at Connections 365 — and he hopes to go on to community college for vocational training.
Jeremiah L., 18
McMinnville High School
Jeremiah traveled a rough road over the past few years. His father died while Jeremiah was incarcerated at Rogue Valley Youth Correctional Facility, and Jeremiah has had to work to build a healthier relationship with his mom. He admits that while he was at Rogue Valley, he was unfocused and did not care about school.
For the past year and a half, Jeremiah has been living in Ed and Celia Kaleta’s foster home in McMinnville. Heidi Lung, one of his juvenile parole and probation officers, says she wasn’t sure at first that he would succeed there.
“He has completely proved me wrong and blossomed this past year and a half,” she says. “He had never been in a public high school setting until his junior year, but he has maintained his parole and completed his treatment. I am so proud of this young man and the hard work he continues to put in to get himself to this point in his life.”
Chance L., 18
Marshfield High School, Coos Bay
Chance L. from Klamath Falls graduated on June 8 and is looking forward to transitioning from a residential program to an independent living program. He plans to work and attend college in Portland in the fall.
Sharon S., 17
Marshall High School, Bend
Sharon’s juvenile parole and probation officer, AJ Gosney, recommended her as a featured graduate because he has been impressed with her maturity in the past year.
“She got her GED at age 16 and felt like she was educated enough, so she stopped progressing,” he says. “But I planted the seed and said, ‘Let’s keep learning.’ She came to me this winter and said she wanted to get her diploma.”
Sharon, who is currently at Northwest Youth Discovery, says she realized she was so close to earning her diploma that she decided to go for it. She hopes to go on to do Job Corps in the future. For now, she’s working and feeling proud to be a graduate.
“It’s something I accomplished,” Sharon says. “I’ve been in the system for five years and hadn’t accomplished much. I’m actually putting work into something and doing something I never thought I’d do.”
Randall C., 18
Falcon Heights Academy, Klamath Falls
Randall attended Chiloquin High School in Klamath County in the fall and was a very successful offensive player on the school’s football team. He scored 90% of the team’s touchdowns during the 2018 season and ran for a little over 2,000 yards. During one game, he ran for 442 yards and had six rushing touchdowns.
Randall’s successes on the field led to him being named Offensive Player of the Year and the Panthers’ Most Valuable Player. He also was a first-team punter and running back.
Anthony P., 18
Junction City High School, Junction City
Anthony graduated June 15 from Junction City High School, where he has been a multi-sport athlete, qualifying twice for state in both wrestling and track.
When placed in OYA’s care, it was a very chaotic time for this young man and his family. Paul Vogel, one of his parole and probation officers, says Anthony was failing classes and had little interest in academics. He was in poor health and had not played organized sports. Anthony seldom looked anyone in the eye and was quite introverted.
Currently in foster care, Anthony has since found his voice and is a much different young man today, Vogel says.
MaKenna C., 18
Bend Senior High School
It’s tough to get MaKenna to talk about herself — she’s a bit shy about her accomplishments. But her photo from graduation day is telling: She’s smiling big and looks truly happy.
Her juvenile parole and probation officer, Frances Howells, says MaKenna had many setbacks in the past year and nearly gave up on earning her diploma. MaKenna had already earned her GED at age 16 while at Oak Creek Youth Correctional Facility.
She paroled out to the Northwest Youth Discovery residential program in Bend and enrolled in community college, but she says most of her first classes were boring and she realized she wanted more time to have a true high school experience.
She chose to stay in school and enrolled at Bend Senior High to get her diploma. “With the help and support of the program staff at NWYD, she was able to refocus and complete her remaining work prior to the end of the school year,” Howells says.
MaKenna is tech savvy, enjoys photography, and participated in the school choir. “I love to sing to literally anything I know the words to,” she says.
She plans to enroll in college again in the future and study criminal justice.
David C.C., 18
Pine Eagle Charter School, Halfway
David spent the past few years moving between multiple residential programs and county detention facilities, but he finally found stability this past year in the foster home of Lolah Yoshikawa. He enrolled in public high school for the first time and worked hard to catch up on credits. He also joined the basketball and track teams.
David’s juvenile parole and probation officer, Reneé Hernandez, says “he has come a long way,” and she is proud that he finished his high school diploma. At graduation, he was even awarded a $4,000 scholarship. Hernandez also gives credit to Eric Barrera, David’s former JPPO, for all his efforts to help David along the way.
“I feel like I’ve changed a lot, emotionally and mentally, and with maturity,” David says. As for graduation, he says, “It’s like steps forward for coming out of the system. It’s reassurance that I’m making progress, trying to change and do good.”
Jesse M., 18
Portland Public Schools (online)
Jesse M. completed his coursework online and has graduated from Portland Public Schools while residing at Buckman House, an independent living program in Portland operated by Janus Youth Programs.
Getting to this point in life hasn’t been easy. Starting when he was very young, Jesse was raised by his grandmother in California until her death when he was 11. He moved to Lane County, Oregon, to be with relatives, but lost connection with them after he entered OYA custody.
Priscila Hasselman, his juvenile parole and probation officer, says he was practically raised in the OYA foster care system, noting that Jesse thinks of his former foster parents, Donna and Arnie Brubaker, as his parents. The Brubakers, whom he lived with for four years, continue to be involved in his life even though he no longer resides with them.
Jesse recently got his first job at Burger King, but he wants to eventually be a mechanic and work with cars.
Jonathan P., 19
Early College and Career Options High School, Eugene
Jonathan P. graduated from ECCO on June 10, three months after he actually finished classes. For six months, Jonathan, who was homeless before coming to OYA, showed dedication by getting up at 4:30 a.m. daily to commute to school in Eugene from his foster home in Junction City. In addition to be offered other scholarships, he’s earned the Gilma Greenhoot Scholarship which will help him pursue culinary arts at Lane Community College. Read more about his journey here.
J Bar J Boys Ranch
The J Bar J Boys Ranch residential program, run by J Bar J Youth Services, graduated a record seven youth from high school in a ceremony on June 12. Read more about their graduation and educational programs here.