By Jim Misunas
LARNED — A standing ovation celebrated a special moment for Westside High School students Friday at the Larned Juvenile Correctional Facility.
The hugs and handshakes from family and friends meant a little extra Friday afternoon for seven high school graduates of Westside High School at the Larned Juvenile Correctional Facility. They’ve all overcome some type of adversity and worked to achieve a goal that offers promise for their future.
Seven Westside students earned GED certificates. Nine students earned manufacturing skills certificates from Barton Community College. Three students earned welding certificates from Barton Community College.
Major Brad Collins provided the welcome address.
Westside Principal Dick Bixler and Terri Williams, deputy secretary of Juvenile Services, each congratulated the graduates on their recent success.
Bixler compared the achievement of the students as taking the next step in life to enter the next phase or door in life. He said climbing challenging steps in life often requires a slip or a missed step from time-to-time.
“Once we get up those steps, the door is open to everyone,” Bixler said. “Some steps are in good shape and others are not. We fall a step sometimes. But are so proud that you have climbed those steps to reach that door. We are very proud of you. Keep on going up those steps. And don’t let people pull you down.”
Williams quoted Thomas Payne, “The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”
“We appreciate the things that we earn,” Williams said. “I am proud of each one of you. You are strong and you can accomplish great things.”
Pastor Jarred Smith, youth pastor for Larned Assembly of God, congratulated the Westside staff for connecting with the students and helping them achieve their goal of graduating. He said Westside’s winter graduation ceremony was a time for celebration of reaching a goal.
“This is a day we can feel the passion, a day we can be thankful for, a day with new beginnings and a day where you showed perseverance,” he said. “There were days where we had to get up when you fell down.”
Smith said achieving success comes from ignoring the negative influences.
He said a faith-based belief will always provide an answer to difficult times.
“He has a plan for our lives,” Smith said. “He has a plan to take care of us and give us hope. If you call on Him for answers, he will listen.”
Smith said achieving a small goal can lead to greater goals in life.
“The next season for your life is ahead of you,” he said. “Today is a day to be thankful for. Dream big.”
Westside’s curriculum and teachers are hired by Fort Larned USD 495.
LJCF became part of the Kansas Juvenile Justice Authority in 1997. The Juvenile Justice Reform Act, passed by the Kansas Legislature in 1996, mandates that the most violent, serious, and chronic offenders will be referred to juvenile correctional facilities.
The 132,000 square foot facility is considered medium security. Youth residents eat, attend school, receive programming and live within the confines of one building. Each youth resident is assigned a separate room, complete with restroom facilities.
Specialized programs include substance abuse treatment and programming for youth residents who suffer from a mental illness or developmental delay. Classes in Independent Living Skills, Activity Therapy, Parenting and vocational work programs are offered.