Getting to the Graduation

Class of 2013Getting to the Graduation

“Take off your shoes.”

I got to the parking lot with time to spare.  I checked to make sure I had everything I needed and nothing I didn’t. I ran to the gate, got checked in, and went through the metal detectors and security scanners where security reminded me, “Take off your shoes”.  At last I was able to head to find my seat.  Now some of you might think I might have been at an airport heading on a plane to get to a graduation but that would not be correct.  Rather, I was attending the Cypress Creek Academy Class of 2013 graduation with 12 graduates at the maximum-risk juvenile detention center in Lecanto, Florida.

At times this graduation felt like any other high school graduation and at other times you couldn’t help but be extra pleased for how far these young men have come and how much they have overcome to  get to this day.  The pledge was given by Warren, one of the youth from “Team One” who has impressed me greatly over the past year. (Read about Team One in this blog post.) A moving rendition of the National Anthem was sung by Hayes.   The Valedictorian Kyle spoke about his teachers at Cypress Creek Academy and how they did not give up on him and wouldn’t let him give up on himself.  Salutatorian Austin challenged the other students to get their diplomas, and before finishing his presentation he had brought his mother, father and brother to tears. Several families traveled long distances to attend this graduation as these youth had come from all over the state of Florida, from Miami to the Panhandle.  The guest speaker was Reverend Eddie Padgett from the Joy & Praise Fellowship Church in Beverly Hills, Florida.  Rev. Padgett shared his own trials as a youth and shared, “Today was not an end, but a beginning… a new beginning.”  Cypress Creek Academy Principal Robert Cummins, or “Coach”, as many of the youth call him, did not hand over their diplomas until he made sure they and everyone else knew the hard work each of them had done to get to that day.

This graduation holds a special place in my heart because these young people are often the forgotten students. These are youth who have been adjudicated from 18 to 36 months to this maximum-risk program.  These students have earned their high school diploma and several have enrolled and begun college class work.  What makes this impressive is that when many of these students entered Cypress Creek Academy they were years behind their peers or may have been skipping schools for years.  These students had to do what they often had not done before they came to Cypress Creek Academy.  For those that enrolled in college this is no easy task. These students have to apply to a college and apply for funding like any other high school student, except on their application they have to disclose their sentence and where they will be studying from. Principal Cummins explained that all of the colleges require an interview which he works to arrange on the phone rather than in person.  Principal Cummins has even used video conferencing to arrange college interviews for students. Principal Cummins said, “When applying for college these students have to share to the outside world where they are residing and admit to themselves what that actually means.”

Attending events at Cypress Creek Academy provides me great perspective of all the students we serve as board members.  I am grateful that these teachers and staff members take personal interest in helping these students succeed at the Academy in hopes that they will continue that success when they leave.

This was the last of the graduation ceremonies I attended for the season.  I had started off the Thursday before last at the C.R.E.S.T. graduation which is always filled with wonderful loving moments.  Monday evening I was at the graduation for the Withlacoochee Technical Institute G.E.D. Class of 2013 while Tuesday was Crystal River High School where the early rain didn’t hamper the spirits of these graduates. Wednesday Citrus High School’s graduation was one warm graduation but by nightfall even the moon came out and shine brightly to celebrate the graduates. Thursday was Lecanto High School’s graduation and had the largest number of graduates of all the graduating classes as well as  a record high number of scholarship offerings,  topping over $9.5million. $4.5million was awarded to the LHS International Baccalaureate students alone.

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