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October 20, 2011

Youthful offenders graduate behind bars

25 boys at Logansport Juvenile Correctional Facility earn GEDs

LOGANSPORT — Twenty-five teenaged boys donning blue caps and gowns celebrated their high school graduation behind bars Wednesday.

The teens earned their general education development certificates through Logansport Juvenile Correctional Facility’s Vantage Pointe Learning Center.

“You’ve achieved something that others in your situation have not,”

Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman told the graduates during her keynote address Wednesday.

The boys joined 413 other juvenile offenders who have earned their GEDs at the correctional facility since 2007.

Two boys passed with honors by scoring at least 620 points on the exam. One had already been released but returned just for the graduation ceremony.

Family members smiled and wiped tears from their eyes as they watched the boys receive their diplomas.

“When you walk in the room, you feel the emotion, see the pride,”

Skillman said. “Days like this are so rewarding.”

Skillman commended the staff at the facility for giving the boys the individual attention they needed to succeed.

“It’s the right philosophy they have here,” she said. “What’s good for their futures is good for the state of Indiana.”

Richard Richardson, supervisor of education at the facility, said his main goal is to help boys get past the “I can’t” attitude.

Most offenders, he said, come into the correctional facility lacking confidence.

“Most of these kids have been lots of places and failed,” he said.

“Most of them have never successfully completed a semester of high school.”

Richardson said the boys bring more knowledge with them than they realize, though, and eventually the GED “just sneaks up on them.”

And it’s an invaluable tool for the juveniles once they’re released, he said.

“To be a 17- or 18-year-old high school dropout, you have almost no chance of finding a job,” he said.

These kids are getting their high school education, though, and in some cases are enrolling in classes at Ivy Tech, too, Richardson said.

Skillman said the boys inspired her.

“You got here today by pushing past your old boundaries,” she told them. “There have been some bumpy spots, but you’ve made progress anyway.”

• Lindsey Ziliak is a staff writer at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5148 or lindsey.ziliak@pharostribune.com.

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