DYS – Watching our Youth Succeed

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Publication Name: MA Dept. of Youth Services
Article Date: 9/8/2015
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Across the Department, staff, community members, families and supporters of DYS youth witnessed first-hand the results of encouraging our youth and their potential for accomplishing great things.

Graduating from high school is a special milestone for any young person, but this is an especially important moment for the youth in our care and custody. With the support of our dedicated staff, and after months of preparing and working towards the goal of graduating, more than 100 DYS youth across the state got the opportunity to experience this important rite of passage.

As part of its efforts to prepare youth for educational and employment opportunities post-discharge, the Department has made graduation events a significant moment for youth and families to celebrate their positive and educational achievements. At the conclusion of the school year, each of our five regions held special ceremonies where youth as well as staff were honored for their work in the classroom.

Central Region’s graduation theme, “Life is a marathon, not a sprint” was emphasized by speakers who encouraged youth to learn and grow from their mistakes. Central Region’s 24 graduates heard the wise words of keynote speaker, Jorge Sierra, who gave a motivational speech that described his struggles with homelessness, and his involvement in a gang-related shooting that left him paralyzed. He share that all of his struggles eventually helped lead him to the successes he has found in his personal and professional life.
One youth graduate got a chance to connect with the speaker and shared that he recently achieved his high school diploma from a local high school where he was a member of both the varsity football and baseball teams. With the support of DYS casework and site support staff, this young man has received a $50,000 scholarship to attend St. Thomas More School in Connecticut for the upcoming school year!

The Northeast Region recognized 46 graduates at this year’s 4th annual graduation ceremony held at United Teen Equality Center in Lowell.

Approximately 170 family members, staff, leaders, community partners, educators and other distinguished guests were in attendance to celebrate this monumental achievement. Of the 46 graduates, 16 of them received a high school diploma and 30 earned a high school equivalency diploma. Several students have plans to further their education. One student has enrolled in an electrical program at The Peterson School; another student will attend New England Hair Academy this fall; others have already started or plan to attend community college this month.

One Northeast youth delivered a heartfelt keynote speech of his personal experiences with DYS. He shared some of the many ways DYS involvement has supported him and helped him build lasting, positive relationships with caring adults as well as his peers. The young man was articulate and purposeful in his message, sharing As I look around this room, I see a great deal of potential in this graduating class. We all have so many positive attributes, it is worth taking time to reflect on the obstacles we have had to overcome. Under all of our issues or our poor decisions, lies hope, determination, and hard work. Each and every one of us has something positive to offer.”

The 4th Annual Excellence in Education Ceremony in the Southeast kicked things off with two post-discharge youth who served as Masters of Ceremonies. They shared inspiring messages and personal stories of their hard work in pursuing their educational and professional goals. One young woman spoke about the process of getting closer to what she called her dream job of becoming a Registered Nurse and shared that she felt “blessed with good support and people within the Department” which has helped her get closer to accomplishing her career aspirations.

Youth performers from the Everett Company Stage and School put the crowd in a festive mood, and 40 youth names were called from the Southeast Region as each District Office presented education certificates to youth. Southeast staff was also recognized. Teachers from the Old Colony YMCA   Boys’ Program, and the Adira Academy won teaching awards, and the Southeast Educator of the Year Award went to Erin Easton in recognition of her passion and commitment to our students.

Each of the District Offices in the Western Region also celebrated with their individual festive events celebrating 23 students who graduated. The common thread was the students were celebrated for their successes in passing the HiSet exams and earning HS diplomas from Holyoke, West Springfield, Chicopee, Greenfield and Northampton, to name a few.

The Metro Region held a successful graduation event for youth and families in Braintree and, was  pleased to report that several youth were awarded scholarships to help strengthen their educational futures.

The Harvard Phillips Brooks House Association Scholarship Committee approved seven scholarship applications from the students at Connelly Youth Center this semester!  These youth received anywhere between $1,000 and $2,500 from Harvard PBHA towards tuition at the following schools:

  • Springfield Technical Community College
  • MA School of Barbering
  • Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology
  • Bunker Hill Community College
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • SAT Preparation Classes

We’d also like to announce that 18 DYS youth received scholarship awards to help towards college, vocational or certificate program expenses! The William J. Wolfe Scholarship Fund awards scholarships to talented, motivated individuals who have formerly received services through the Key Program. Scholarship candidates must have a demonstrated social commitment, and wish to pursue an educational or vocational certificate/degree beyond high school. Scholarships were awarded for tuition, books, and supplies needed for training and awards ranged between $2,500 and $6,000 per student depending on their needs.

We want to thank all the families, friends, and supporters who were able to be part of the graduation events. In addition, we’d like to give a special shout out to the Graduation Planning Committees, our dedicated DYS staff, CES educators, and all other professionals who continuously guide and mentor our youth throughout their educational journey.

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