In December 2022, nine young people from Green Hill School (GHS) celebrated their triumphant graduation from Centralia College. Professors from the college performed the graduation ceremony at GHS in full robes, and friends and family cheered their loved ones on as they received their associate's degrees, trade certifications, and honors of high achievement. Watch this video tribute that captures the moment!
“Dec. 7, 2019, was the day I got incarcerated, and Dec. 7, 2022, was the day I achieved the unthinkable and became a first-generation college graduate in my family,” shared youth graduate Caya. “Graduating high school was never in my future, let alone graduating college. This has shown me that the sky is the limit, and even though people have the cards stacked against them, with the right amount of dedication and support, anything is possible.”
The partnership with Centralia College began soon after the JR to 25 bill passed in 2018 (SB 6160), which allows young people to remain in Juvenile Rehabilitation (JR) until age 25. As a result, DCYF staff set to work identifying programs of interest for an older population and youth named college education as one of the most important opportunities.
Since then, GHS has worked closely with Centralia College to customize a college program that works for incarcerated youth. Instructors come to GHS for lessons, and students also attend classes remotely and in person on campus. Since the program launch in 2019, enrollment and interest have increased significantly among Green Hill young people, from 10 initial participants to an average of 40 students per quarter.
“Graduation, to me, means a new pathway for a future I had never seen before. A new journey where success is the light at the end of the tunnel,” shared Mondrell, another graduate. “Graduation is something I never thought possible, being that I am the first generation of my family to do so. I come from a background full of failure, so to accomplish a feat this big means more than words can explain.”
The determination and commitment of these young people were exceptional, especially in the face of a pandemic, with canceled classes, working around quarantines to complete assignments, outdoor classrooms, and more. Going the extra mile, seven youth were invited to join Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, and six made the President’s List for maintaining a 3.5 GPA, all while enrolled as full-time students.
To date, GHS has celebrated 10 college graduations through the program, with nine graduating earlier this month and many more to come!