Oregon Youth Authority facilities weren’t able to have their normal graduation ceremonies this year due to the pandemic, but they still found ways to honor this year’s high school and college graduates.
Oak Creek Youth Correctional Facility and the Young Women’s Transition Program held a senior breakfast with a ceremony. Rogue Valley and MacLaren youth correctional facilities held graduation ceremonies that were separated by living unit. Other facilities are planning to celebrate their graduates at a later date.
Overall, five youth earned associate degrees, 75 earned high school diplomas, 24 earned GEDs, and one received a barbering license.
Here is the breakdown by facility:
Eastern Oregon, Monroe High School: 5 high school diplomas
MacLaren, Lord High School: 24 high school diplomas, 7 GEDs, 1 associate degree, one barbering license
Oak Creek, Three Lakes High School; and Young Women’s Transition Program, Riverside High School: 14 high school diplomas, 11 GEDs, 3 associate degrees
Rogue Valley, New Bridge High School: 9 high school diplomas, 5 GEDs
Tillamook YCF and Camp Tillamook, Trask River High School: 12 high school diplomas, 1 associate degree
Camp Florence, Ocean Dunes High School: 8 high school diplomas
Camp Riverbend, Riverbend High School: 3 high school diplomas, 1 GED
OYA director Joe O’Leary and deputy director Nakeia Daniels, along with multiple supporters from the community, recorded a video to congratulate all the graduates. You can view it below.
Oak Creek and YWTP: Three Lakes and Riverside High Schools
Rogue Valley: New Bridge High School
MacLaren: Lord High School
Graduation Speech from Lord High School valedictorian Taylor C.
I never thought I’d be standing here today. I certainly never thought I’d be giving this speech. But I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am right now if it wasn’t for some of this school’s outgoing and amazing teachers and staff.
It’s really crazy to think that just two and a half years ago, I came here with zero credits, a whole year and a half behind my graduating class. Some people might think it would be impossible to come back from a deficit like that, and I’m not gonna lie, sometimes graduating high school seemed so far out of reach, like maybe I just wasn’t meant for this.
For a long time before I got my head on straight, I convinced myself that I didn’t need an education. I was being influenced by so many people that didn’t go to school. Somehow they had survived, so why couldn’t I do the same? That was my life. I had no aspirations to become something. I was content just getting by. People would look at me like I was dumb. They only saw who I was pretending to be: someone who skipped school, broke the law, and got high. I was heading down a road that would eventually land me in prison or dead.
Fortunately, God had other plans. That’s when I found this school, which ultimately helped me find myself. What I found here was an academic ability that I never even imagined I had. Before this school, I was searching for recognition from people in a way that made my name notorious to others. It gave me a feeling of acceptance and popularity, and made me feel more of a value to my peers. Little did I know, all I was doing was giving myself a huge handicap, because now, if I wanted to graduate with the rest of my class, I’d have to do it in nearly half the time that was given to them.
If I really wanted to do this, I needed to start setting goals, and believing in myself to meet those goals. I can’t remember the first time that I actually believed I could get my diploma, but I do remember the first time I started setting goals. It all centered around one main thing: getting my diploma on time with the rest of my class.
I began to set smaller goals by taking after-school classes, or signing up for one college class a term. Whatever could get me extra credits, you could count me in. There were some days that I would leave for school at 8 in the morning and I wouldn’t make it back until 7 at night. Sometimes the classes were interesting. Sometimes the classes would be a blast. Other times, though, the classes were just plain stressful. That’s what it took, though. If I was going to outweigh my lack of effort in the past, I needed to put in overtime every single day until I accomplished my goal.
And now, after a couple of years of giving this school my all, I can stand here and proudly say that I did what most people thought I would never do. Not only did I graduate with my class, but I can also be honored to say that I am the valedictorian. It feels good, but I know this isn’t the end.
I heard something when I was younger that really applies to my situation. It’s not enough to fill the hole, but climb the hill to when you’ll soar. It’s not enough to correct your wrongs, but you have to excel past what you ever thought you were capable of. Getting my diploma is a huge milestone, for sure the greatest accomplishment of my life so far. But now, I have to keep climbing the hill, searching for whatever it is that’s going to make me my best self. And for anyone who’s willing to accept my advice, I encourage you to keep climbing, keep searching, don’t sell yourself short, don’t settle for less. Even with all the odds stacked against you, if you put in the work, you’re unstoppable.