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Westside Schools graduates enjoy graduation ceremony
Austin Brownell
Courtesy Photo Austin Brownell, a juvenile offender at Larned Juvenile Correctional Facility, accepts his degree from Elaine Simmons, dean of workforce training and community education at Barton Community College.

LARNED — Youth at the Larned Juvenile Correctional Facility’s Westside School marked a momentous occasion — their 2014 graduation at a recent cermony.
During the afternoon’s ceremony, the gymnasium was filled with staff, youth, family members, and friends who stood while the graduates filed in during the Pomp and Circumstance processional.  
Karen Gore, Westside academic coordinator, led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance before introducing Rev. David Hales, who delivered the opening prayer.  
Westside Principal Dick Bixler welcomed and gave his appreciation to those in attendance.  He likened life to baseball, and commended the graduates for getting up to the plate and swinging, and not letting opportunity fly by.
Wendy Leiker, Larned Juvenile Correctional Facility superintendent, addressed the audience, noting that this was the largest graduating class at Westside School. Leiker has been employed at LJCF since 2003, and will now oversee the facility that houses up to 129 medium-custody male juveniles.
Leiker shared some words she recalled from actor Matthew McConnaughey’s Oscar acceptance speech.  She encouraged the youth to find:
• Something to look up to,
• Something to look forward to, and;
• Someone to chase.  
In these endeavors, she suggested that “gratitude reciprocates,” that family can be “our biggest fans during our ups and strongest supporters during our downs,” and that “our best role models are ourselves.”  
In closing, she urged the youth to remember their feelings of pride and to, “Chase the future, because your potential is limitless!”
Ray Roberts, Kansas Department of Corrections secretary, expressed his pleasure and his honor in being asked to give the keynote address.  
“This is an impressive turnout,” he noted as he emphasized the importance of education and commended the graduates for their efforts, especially in light of the challenges they face.  
Roberts suggested these strategies to overcome limitations and reach one’s full potential:
• Stay focused and believe in yourself,
• Forget about past mistakes and focus on present goals,
• Always aim high and be willing to take risks,
• Never give up, and,
• Find the joy in life.  
“You only get one family, so treat them well, and you will have a more meaningful existence,” Roberts said.
William Rains, Coordinator of Correctional Education Services for Barton Community College (BCC), awarded six manufacturing skills certificates and six welding technology certificates.  
Two LJCF youth, Austin Brownell and Marvin Davis, then received their associate of general studies degrees from Jane Howard, business, BCC technology and community education director; and Elaine Simmons, BCC dean of workforce training and community education. Davis also earned a certificate of achievement for graduating with honors.
Following the BCC awards, Westside High School recognized three students for achievement awards.  
The crowd then applauded as the 13 graduating class members were presented with their high school diplomas.  
The class salutatorian and valedictorian also were recognized.  Following the graduation ceremony, the students were given the opportunity to visit with family members who had come to celebrate this important occasion.