New Orleans Saints tackle
Strief was joined by numerous state and school officials including the assistant secretary at the Office of Juvenile Justice (OJJ) Sean Hamilton, the regional director central/southwestern service area Johnny Qualls, director of education (OJJ) Kim Mims, facility deputy director Ashley Taflinger, facility assistant director Fouad Harb, as well as principal Ronnie Knox (OJJ).
The school, run by the Office of Juvenile Justice, enrolls over 80 students with the graduating class of 2013 totaling 17 students. The students and their families, as well as guests and faculty, were hosted in the dining hall for the ceremony.
“The diplomas you have received are not only an expression of your hard work, but an expression of your willingness to work,” said Strief. “But you have not finished learning and growing. You have just been given the tools to continue to learn and grow, and with that you are going to be as great as you want yourself to be.”
Strief went on to discuss the importance of overcoming adversity and of genuine effort in everything that someone does, even if quitting was the easiest route to take.
“You guys didn’t quit, you finished. And now you are holding the fruits of that effort,” said Strief. “This is going to happen many more times in your life; someone will give you an opportunity to achieve something and you will need to choose if you are going to see it through and finish or if you are going to quit.”
In closing, Strief stressed the importance of taking what the students had learned and furthering their education in the classroom or in the community, adding that continued work in whatever the students would pursue would lead to further achievements.
“This is a time for reflection, not only of what you have achieved but for what you can and will achieve,” said Strief. “A graduation is not an ending, a graduation is a beginning. This is not your last achievement, it will be the first of many.”