By Joe Orlando, CDCR Public Information Officer

A lot of young people take their high school graduations for granted.

But when you’re the first in your family to graduate, and you have been told that you’ll never amount to anything, it’s a big deal. It was just that situation for many of the 15 juvenile offenders at O.H. Close Youth Correctional Facility when they received their high school diplomas.

“This is a very different group than I’ve ever worked with,” said Jacque Cloud, principal of Johanna Boss High School. “They’ve had so many obstacles this year (such as) a lot of gang issues (and) pressures within the facility. For them to see this through, to being able to walk up on stage and get that diploma, that’s a big deal for them and their families.”

This year’s valedictorian is graduating with a 3.8 grade point average.

“When we told him congratulations, now you have to write a speech, he was like, ‘That’s great, I got this,'” said Cloud.

Because of the small size graduating class, this year’s ceremony was not as formal, and not a major production like most years.

But it was a proud moment for a lot of graduates decked out in their caps and gowns, their families, and those teachers and administrators.

“Yes you can, you are a big deal, and so is this accomplishment,” Cloud told the graduates.

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