Posted by: Michael Brown, KHTS Hometownstation.com
August 8, 2019.
Officials at Pitchess Detention Center held a graduation ceremony for students who had earned their high school diplomas through Five Keys Charter Schools as part of the Education-Based Incarceration program.
“We know it was not always easy,” said Kimberly Mendendorp, who serves as a principal for Five Keys Charter School, during the ceremony. “We are so proud of your accomplishments.”
During the ceremony, graduates had the opportunity to hear from Joshua Baker, who graduated from the Five Keys program in 2014.
“Finally finishing high school was the breakthrough I needed in my life,” Baker said.
Baker, who had been addicted to methamphetamine for 15 years, now works as a certified welder while taking classes to get his Associate’s degree in communication, as well as reconnecting with his son, who he had not seen for five years.
“You all deserve a life outside of these walls,” Baker told the graduates. “But that life will require hard work and sacrifice.
Students can earn their diplomas in a timespan ranging from a few months to three years, depending on how many high school credits they have going into the program.
“This is a great way to achieve all the goals you want out of life,” said Robert J. Olmsted, assistant sheriff with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. “This is a good basis to help get you started.”
Many officials echoed the sentiment of Olmsted, stating that the moment served not as an ending, but a beginning.
“It’s what you do with this diploma that is going to define the next era of your life,” said Shanley Rhodes, chief of in-custody programs in Los Angeles for Five Keys.
Many of the graduates said they were planning on seeking to further their education now that they have their high school diplomas.
“I want to further my education and go to college,” said David Enriquez, one of the 26 graduates who received their diploma Wednesday. “I don’t know what I want to take yet, but I for sure want to further my education and make this worthwhile and not just let it go to waste.”
Other graduates said they are planning to take their diplomas and start learning a trade that they can turn into a career.
“Now that I have this diploma, I’d like to further my education and go to a technical school and learn a mechanics trade,” said William Poole, a graduate who hopes to gain a career in the automotive mechanics industry.
One graduate, Oscar Lopez, got the opportunity to speak at the ceremony about how much this milestone meant not only to himself, but to his mother.
“This program has been the training wheel I needed beside my mom,” Lopez said. “Thank you for being here and helping us give my mom a present: my high school diploma.”
Lopez’s mother told those in attendance that she had stayed up until 4 a.m. because she was so excited, even clearing a space on a wall in her home for Lopez’s diploma.
“See Mom?” Lopez said. “It’s never too late for your son to improve himself.”