This year, 17-year-old Jayden, now an inmate of the Logansport Juvenile Correctional Facility, was simply hanging around the wrong people.
Admittedly, he said, the things in traditional school that he didn’t understand were things he did not want to understand. Then, in February, he got caught stealing a car. He knew that he was going to make the best out of his time at the juvenile facility, and on Friday, it all came to a head as Jayden and 15 other inmates received their General Education Development and one obtained his high school diploma.
“I wanted to change my life because it opens a lot more doors to get my GED,” Jayden said. Because Jayden is a minor state officials asked the Pharos-Tribune not to print his last name., who state officials asked not to use his last name because he is a minor. “I’m proud.”
As was his mother, Michelle Hughes, who joined a roomful of parents and family members to watch the GED ceremony in a juvenile correctional building on the Logansport State Hospital grounds.
“He’s very smart. He always made honor roll when he was younger,” Hughes said. “But, he made bad decisions and he was hanging around the wrong people. He got his mind off track and off of school.
“But now, it’s amazing. I’ve always had faith in him. I knew he would get back on track.”
The Vantage Pointe Learning Center has helped more than 120 students get back on track this year by helping them obtain a GED — the second highest number of graduates in Cass County behind Logansport High School, said Richard Richardson, supervisor of education for the Logansport Juvenile Correctional Facility.
“All these young men, we may not fix them, but we sure give them a step up and a chance,” RIchardson said. “And that’s all we can do.”
He said many of those who leave the juvenile facility do so as a changed person, one way or another.
“They’ve had a life course,” Richardson said. “I try to tell them that if you go back to high school, it won’t be the same because you’re not the same. You’ve had life experiences that high school kids don’t see.”
Todd Miller, CEO of Myers Spring Co., was the keynote speaker and his message was short and clear.
“Find somebody you’re willing to submit to,” he said. “Surround yourself with the right people.”
David Wright was about to graduate from Logansport High School when he was sentenced to the juvenile correctional facility. He had just a little more course work that he had to complete, which he did while at the facility, and on Friday, his mother brought him his diploma.
“It means a lot to me now,” he said, adding when he was not in the facility, he didn’t really care about school. “That’s all my mom ever wanted. She said the only goal is that she wanted me to graduate. Now that I did it, and I see how it affects her, it makes me really happy. It makes me feel like a man.”
His mother, Heather Salcedo, said bringing her son his diploma was the only time it would leave the mantle at home.
“It means the world,” she said.
And that’s what it meant to many who were gathered for the ceremony, including Jayden. Not only did he receive his GED, but he nearly graduated with honors.
“I always thought that I would fail instead of accomplish something,” he said. “I couldn’t believe I almost graduated with honors.”
• Jason M. Rodriguez is associate editor of the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.