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A second chance to a bright future, 6 at-risk youths graduate from Ingham Academy

Posted: 3:45 PM, Jul 27, 2016
Updated: 2016-07-27 19:45:43Z

“We all make mistakes, and in order to move forward we have to forgive ourselves.”

That is part of the commencement speech given by graduate Dustin Whitford. He was one of six students who graduated from the Ingham Academy, Wednesday, and received their high school diplomas.

The Ingham Academy is a court operated day-treatment program, that focuses on at-risk students that may not have been able to succeed in a regular school setting. The academy is a collaboration of the Ingham County Circuit Court’s Family Division, Highfields, Ingham Intermediate School District and Peckham, Inc.

Together, these organizations have created an environment that provides at-risk students with an education, work experience and life skills to prepare them for their next steps.

Scott LeRoy, Juvenile Programs Director, said that many of the students plan to go to college, or find work in the community.

“We have been doing work with them in the community, and every kid has a transition plan through Peckham,” LeRoy said. “The majority are going on to college. Some are starting this summer.”

One of the students has been accepted to four universities already, and many are planning to start at Lansing Community College before moving on to a university.

“This is really the starting point, this is not the finish-line,” said Chief Judge of Probate, Richard Garcia. “The reality is, this program will continue only if you succeed. The rest of your life, is about your success. We know, and expect, you will do great things. We know there is nothing you can’t do.”

For Whitford, he will start LCC and then plans to go Northern Arizona University for a degree in nursing.

“It was very challenging,” Whitford said about the program. “It’s a program like no other, and I grew a lot because of it.”

The academy was started in 2008 and is supported by the Juvenile Justice Millage. So far, 60 students have graduated from the program and received high school diplomas.

Chief Curcuit Court Judge Janelle Lawless said there is a 3-percent recidivism rate, “meaning they are unlikely to commit further crimes.”