(Decatur, GA) – The Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) held a graduation ceremony for youth in the DJJ School System on Thursday, December 14 at the Anderson Conference Center in Macon, Ga. Twenty-three high school diplomas, 22 GED diplomas, and seven Technical Certificates of Credit (TCC) were awarded to students. Class leaders included the valedictorian and salutatorian from the Macon Youth Development Campus (YDC) and the student with the highest GED score from the Gainesville Regional Youth Detention Center (RYDC).

“I am so happy to celebrate our youth’s accomplishments,” said DJJ Commissioner Shawanda Reynolds-Cobb. “Education is a critical component of our work to rehabilitate and transform the young lives in our care. Graduation is a pivotal moment in their lives and provides a sense of hope towards a brighter future. I want to thank our team of educators for their hard work and commitment to encouraging our youth to achieve their goals.”

DJJ is the 181st school district in Georgia. Georgia Preparatory Academy (GPA) is the middle and high school and Pathway to Success is the GED program within the school system. GPA and Pathway to Success are located at 28 campuses within DJJ’s RYDCs, YDCs, and Education Transition Centers across Georgia. DJJ operates GPA with a curriculum that meets the education standards set forth by the Georgia Department of Education for all public schools.

Commencement Speaker Ladji Ruffin, a Forensic Peer Mentor/Trainer for the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD), shared his path through the juvenile system and how he went from a life sentence to creating post-incarceration access to supportive services for people impacted by the criminal justice system.

“It was important to share my story because it shows youth where I came from and how I turned my life around,” said Ruffin. “These youth now have the tools and support they need to take command of their future and navigate through society.”

DJJ partners with the Technical College System of Georgia for the GED program and the Connections Graduate Program (CGP), which is designed to prepare graduates for college or career opportunities. Students enrolled in CGP earned certifications in Barbering Fundamentals, Construction Work, Nursery/Greenhouse Tech, and Prep Cook.

“As educators, we want to prepare youth to be successful when they reenter their communities,” said Zane Shelfer, DJJ Deputy Superintendent of Schools. “The diplomas and technical certificates our youth earned are achievements that will positively impact their steps towards higher education and gainful employment. We look forward to providing more opportunities for students to thrive.” 

DJJ facilities with graduates included Augusta, Eastman, Macon, Milledgeville, and Muscogee YDCs, Augusta, Bob Richards, Cadwell, Claxton, Crisp, DeKalb, Gainesville, Martha K. Glaze, Metro, Savannah, Terrell, and Waycross RYDCs, and Muscogee ETC.


(The Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice grants you permission to use the below photo.)


Communications Glenn Allen