Fourteen Pine Grove YCC youth offenders graduated with high school diplomas or GEDs in a recent ceremony.

Fourteen Pine Grove YCC youth offenders graduated with high school diplomas or GEDs in a recent ceremony.

14 graduate with high school diplomas or GEDs

By Joe Orlando, CDCR Public Information Officer
Office of Public and Employee Communications

Fourteen youths at the Pine Grove Youth Conservation Camp (YCC) received a high school diploma or General Educational Degree (GED) recently in a major step toward their rehabilitation.

Nine students – among 60 youth trained to fight fires – received high school diplomas and five earned a GED or a high school equivalency while battling several blazes throughout this busy fire season including the Valley Fire in Lake, Napa and Sonoma counties that burned 76,000 acres and took a month to get under control.

Pine Grove YCC is operated jointly by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).

“This is priceless,” said Tod Dorris, a fire captain working for CAL FIRE at Pine Grove YCC for 13 years. “The goal is to change behavior, to learn a skill. You can’t put a price on what goes on here, and what it can mean if these guys take advantage of the opportunities.”

When not working the fire lines, clearing brush or doing other maintenance projects throughout Amador County, the youth offenders are working on their high school degrees and attending classes from 5:30 in the afternoon until 10 o’clock at night.

”We know how busy these guys are, and how committed they need to be,” explained recently retired teacher Tony Kubiak. “This is an honor for them to be here. And as for education, this is a legitimate high school, with all the same requirements as any other California high school.”

Two students were chosen by school administrators to speak at this year’s graduation ceremony.

Dr. J. Holmes Armstead Jr., retired professor from the United States Naval War College, was the guest speaker.

Pine Grove YCC in Amador County screens and accepts low-risk youth from other DJJ facilities. They range in age from 18 to 24 and typically include between 50 and 80 males at any given time. Fire training is provided by CAL FIRE and youth are certified to engage in wild land firefighting operations. Fire crews from DJJ camps perform approximately 189,000 hours of fire suppression in a normal year for the people of California.

DJJ operates an accredited school district, which provides youth offenders with the same high school curriculum in each of its four institutions they would receive in their home community. Youth attend school Monday through Friday. DJJ considers a diploma or GED a minimum requirement for parole consideration. From 2010 to 2014, a total of 935 youth earned a high school diploma or GED at DJJ’s four high schools. In addition, 614 students earned Career Technical Education certificates for vocational programs.