“There’s nothing we can do to change our past but we’re on the road now to change our future.”
The words of graduate J.T. rang true to the eight other graduates at the Trask River High School graduation ceremony inside Tillamook Youth Correctional Facility. The ceremony, held June 21 in front of family, friends, teachers, and Oregon Youth Authority staff, was brief but joyful, with enough time to shine a light on each of the nine graduates’ accomplishments.
J.T. was the only student speaker during the ceremony, but the crowd also heard from retiring Tillamook School District Superintendent Randy Schild, and new Trask River High School Principal Greg English. Outgoing Principal Jerry Dorland, who is leaving after 16 years at the school, served as master of ceremonies.
He recognized that Trask River High School graduates are on par with youth in the community, declaring that 13 out of 14 students passed the college readiness exam.
Not only are youth at TYCF and neighboring Camp Tillamook Youth Transitional Facility ready for college, but they can complete college coursework despite living in custody: M.C.D. at Camp Tillamook just received an Associate of Applied Science degree in computer information systems from Portland Community College.
Dorland also recognized two high school graduates in particular: T.Y. and A.M. Although T.Y. had enough credits to earn the modified diploma, he pushed himself to obtain the full diploma. A.M. entered TYCF with zero credits toward graduation, never having passed a high school class. On graduation day, he walked across the stage with a 4.0 GPA under his belt.
Hearing about these accomplishments, Schild stated he will miss attending Trask River High School’s graduation.
“It’s my favorite graduation I go to because there’s a different appreciation of the accomplishments,” he said. “A lot of you had real doubts about these kids getting to this point.”
He also added that the staff has been a big reason the nine received their diplomas.
“They came here not to make money, but to change lives,” he said. “You’re here because they made that investment. Based on what I see, job well done.”
Schild also instructed the graduates to maintain a positive outlook on life: “If you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right. It’s all about attitude.”
In a bilingual speech, J.T. affirmed Schild’s words about his and his fellow graduates’ future.
“We’re not perfect, we’ve all made mistakes, we regret what we’ve done,” he said. “The question is, will we continue to bring positive change to our future? I believe we will.”