The Class of 2020 is unlike any other graduating class in recent history, having to celebrate virtually, at a distance, and in many cases, without much ceremony.
There are 119 OYA youth on parole or probation who are celebrating achievements this month: 98 earned high school diplomas, and 21 have GEDs.
Here is the breakdown by region:
Central Region (Crook, Deschutes, Gilliam, Hood River, Jefferson, Sherman, Wasco, Wheeler counties): 10 high school diplomas, 4 GEDs
Clackamas County: 7 diplomas, 2 GEDs
Coos, Curry and Douglas counties: 2 diplomas
Eastern Region (Baker, Grant, Harney, Malheur, Morrow, Umatilla, Union, and Wallowa counties): 4 diplomas, 2 GEDs
Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, and Lake counties: 18 diplomas, 3 GEDs
Lane County: 4 diplomas, 1 GED
Linn, Benton, Lincoln, and Yamhill counties: 6 diplomas, 1 GED
Marion and Polk counties: 19 diplomas, 6 GEDs
Multnomah County: 13 diplomas
Northwest Region (Washington, Columbia, Clatsop, and Tillamook counties): 15 diplomas, 2 GEDs.
Making It Special
Depending on where they’re living and the program they’ve participated in, each community graduate’s experience is a little different.
Some residential programs, like J Bar J Youth Services in Bend, could celebrate grads with a proper ceremony. In fact, J Bar J celebrated eight grads: one received a GED, two received diplomas, and the other five each received both a diploma and a GED!
OYA juvenile parole/probation officers at the Marion County field office wanted to make sure the graduating youth on their caseloads were celebrated. So JPPOs Renee Hernandez and Heidi Lung worked with Office Specialist Mary Hunter to make certificates of achievement for their community and close-custody youth earning their diplomas or GEDs.
Thanks to everyone who provided the Class of 2020 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 some wanted to share stories of success from youth.
The Road to Graduation
Some community youth were able to take part in the local school district’s adjusted ceremony.
For example, Chase D., a foster care youth in Douglas County, and his 16 graduating classmates at Glendale High School took part in a graduation parade as a sendoff for the class of 2020.
As for Chase’s journey to graduation, it was not an easy one.
Chase spent much of his childhood living on the streets of Portland, as his parents struggled to make ends meet amid drug and alcohol addictions. They moved around so much, that Chase’s education and wellbeing suffered.
Chase was eventually removed from his parents’ care and sent to a foster home in Southern Oregon. But by that point, he found school challenging, having fallen far behind his peers because of his family’s transient lifestyle.
He was 12 when he was committed to OYA.
Despite bumps along the way, Chase, 19, has made it to graduation, said his JPPO Paul Vogel. Chase is living with a supportive foster parents Michelle and Brian Duden and has proven that he will soon be ready to live independently. He has successfully completed a residential program, earned his wildland firefighting certificate, and has signed on with a crew in the town of Merlin.
As an added tribute to this career path, the high school graduate wore his fire pants and boots underneath his graduation gown.
Julian G. in Salem is another youth whose journey to this year’s graduation was bittersweet.
Julian is the first youth to graduate high school while being active with Connection 365’s Project 180 program.
Before the pandemic, Julian had made the honor roll at Roberts High School. When school closed and he found himself at Project 180, which serves youth who are in crisis, Julian was able to continue his education online, thanks to program staff, his school, and his JPPO Rigoberto Garcia. This arrangement continued when he transferred home, where he finished his final credits in time to graduate.