County custody didn’t hold back the 10 students who received their high school diplomas at a commencement ceremony at Westchester County Department of Correction on Friday, July 12.
The ceremony was held at the jail’s Albert Memorial Chapel and attended by family, mentors and other invited guests. Each of the students donned their bright blue caps and gowns while ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ played.
Evangelist Vicki Mills and Sprain Brook Academy principal Dr. Michelle Darby started the ceremony with an invocation and opening remarks. Darby, holding back tears, made note of the close bonds formed between the staff members and the young students. One graduate, Dashawn H., of Mount Vernon, passed five regents examinations in the span of a single week, Darby stated.
“Westchester County commits a tremendous amount of resources to support you in your path forward,” said Correction Commissioner Joseph K. Spano when addressing the graduates. “When you came here, you could have simply waited out your time but instead availed yourselves of these many opportunities offered to you. Do not get complacent with what you have accomplished today; it is not the last but instead the first of many steps along your journey.”
Spano then opened up the floor for Brooklyn-based gallery owner and artist Richard Beavers, who recounted his involvement in the criminal justice system as the keynote speaker.
“There’s a saying: God looks out for babies and fools. You are neither,” he told the students toward the end of his address. “As you sit here today, you are far more prepared for success than I was when my choices placed me in a similar situation. Take what you have earned and use it to support yourselves, your families and your future.”
The conclusion of the ceremony included a discussion from First Deputy Commissioner Louis A. Molina regarding the “holistic approach” the county takes when providing student services.
“As an agency, we commit ourselves to this mission, from the Commissioner’s office to the frontlines, recognizing the importance that each stakeholder plays,” said Molina. “This includes our uniformed staff and supervisors, our onsite service providers, spiritual caregivers and many, many partners. Through a coordinated effort, we are breaking the cycle of incarceration and continuing to change lives.”
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