FRESNO, California - During the graduation season we honor students who have excelled and those who have overcome hardships to achieve success.
They are a very different group of students, those with special needs and students who end up at the Juvenile Justice Campus. It is the job of the office of the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools to educate these students and the office also celebrates them.
Last minute rehearsal for what will be their big night, 52 students graduating from the office of the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools Adult Transition program.
"The ATP program is designed to maximize independence for students with intellectual disabilities," said program manager Tammie Kabeary.
Each student comes into the program at a different level; teachers say they work to help each one reach their maximum potential by focusing on their abilities not disabilities.
"When I first met Jamie about two years ago, she was very quite, very withdrawn."
21-year-old Jamie Murphy is one of the keynote speakers at their graduation…she has come a long way.
"I want to keep going and do stuff with my life," exclaimed Murphy. Jamie credits the Kid's Café for not only her confidence but her new skills.
The Kids Café is a new restaurant located in downtown Fresno operated by the Fresno County Office of Education. It's a business designed to help special needs adults gain real world work experience.
"This night is very important and exciting for me without this program I don't know how I would get Jamie to where she is now at this time," said Jamie's mother Irma Sigala.
Getting the counties most vulnerable young people to where they can be providing the services to help them be their best self, is one of the most important duties of the office of the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools.
Services also extends to young people who find themselves on the wrong side of the law and were expelled from school.
"The goal is not just transition to get them back to their home school if they don't graduate here with us, the goal is to get them on the path to be a productive citizen whatever that might look like for them," stated program manager Marisa Gamboa.
These are graduates of the Alice Worsley Court School, the school is for students in custody at the Juvenile Justice Campus. Students get help not only completing their education but addressing the behavior that landed them her in the first place.
Everyone at this school, from the teachers, the staff even the officers support the young people in their care and when students have the chance to speak each one expresses their gratitude.
"I want to give a shout out to the officer for making me laugh when I was down. For telling me never to give up and settle for less, telling me education never ends, one reason I'm going to college," said one student.
Many of the students at the Juvenile Justice Campus go on to enroll at a community college or enter a vocational education program. Many special needs students go into another adult education program.