There are some sights that seem to pop up at every high school graduation: Proud families, quietly elated students, balloons and flowers of congratulations. And then there’s one unique to Los Robles High School: blue-shirted probation officers.
That’s because the students of Los Robles, a rehabilitation program jointly administered by the Probation Department and the County Education Office, are juvenile offenders who, through counseling and classes, are given a chance to earn a high school diploma and a place in society.
Los Robles’s spring graduation, held Friday, marked for 25 such students the culmination of years of hard work and a chance to enact a positive change in their own lives.
The graduates, 22 of whom graduated on stage, strode into the auditorium to “Pomp and Circumstance” piped in over a PA system, some grinning broadly, others reservedly dignified as photographers, provided courtesy of the Probation Department, snapped their pictures.
“This is my favorite time of the year,” said Fred Razo, director of court and community schools, adding that the graduation ceremony “epitomizes an about-face” for the graduates.
Daniel Schradermeier, the teacher in charge of instruction at Los Robles, paused a moment to recognize the teachers and personnel who helped make the graduation possible, before turning to his soon-to-be former students. “You’ve given me all of these white hairs. Thanks,” he deadpanned.
First District Supervisor Carbajal gave the keynote address for the graduation, recounting his own experience as an immigrant to the United States from Mexico and the inadequacy he felt growing up poor and desperate in Oxnard. At one point fighting back tears (“This always happens to me,” he quipped), he went on to stress the importance of making the right decisions, and each graduate’s power to turn their past failures into future successes.
The 22 students on stage, through all of this, kept up the day’s theme of congratulations, exchanging fist bumps at every opportunity and distributing a few dozen yellow roses to those in the audience who helped them along the way.
This year’s graduating class is the largest in Los Robles’s history, composed of 44 graduates between fall and spring, continuing a steady increase from 11 graduates in the ’06-’07 school year.
Additionally, each of the graduates received a $500 scholarship to jumpstart his or her college career, furnished by a coalition of several Rotary Clubs and the Toastmasters District 33.
“These kids won’t become rocket scientists,” Schradermeier granted during his remarks. Time will tell whether he was being realistic or pessimistic, but, for now, the Los Robles Class of 2011, for all of their mistakes, can enjoy a moment of well-earned pride.