Sunshine and a coastal breeze greeted students and their families Aug. 23 at the Ocean Dunes High School graduation at Camp Florence Youth Transitional Facility.
It was a small, laid-back affair — much like the facility, which helps youth learn the skills they need to transition back into the community.
But the three graduates earning their high school diplomas and the one getting his GED still felt the huge nature of their accomplishment.
“I was in a place where I didn’t really feel like [education] was an option for me,” J.S. said. “Now, being in corrections, I’ve been given a lot of opportunities and a lot of support that I didn’t think was real for a long time.”
Oregon Youth Authority staff, teachers, and a few community members cheered them on from the audience, including Rep. Caddy McKeown from Coos Bay and Rep. Janeen Sollman from Hillsboro.
Keynote speaker Alan Burns, former mayor of Florence, reminded the grads about the importance of observing your surroundings and being kind to others.
“We all know that the world needs more kindness in it,” he said. “I would advise each and every one of you to learn and practice kindness, but genuine kindness.”
A 2013 report from RAND Corporation showed that incarcerated people who participate in educational programs while in custody are 43% less likely to be arrested for another crime than those who do not.
This fact was not lost on graduate D.B.
“I think just having a diploma, if I ever need to get a job, it just opens up way more doors,” he said.