(Decatur, GA) The Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) held a graduation ceremony for youth in the DJJ School System on Thursday, May 23, in Macon, Ga. Students were awarded fourteen high school diplomas, 19 GED diplomas, and 14 Technical Certificates of Credit (TCC). Class leaders included the valedictorian and salutatorian from the Muscogee Youth Development Campus (YDC) and the student with the highest GED score from the Gainesville Regional Youth Detention Center (RYDC). The Department also celebrated the first female graduate to earn a welding certification.

“I am so happy to celebrate our youth’s outstanding achievements,” said DJJ Commissioner Shawanda Reynolds-Cobb. “Providing a quality education is essential to restoring and strengthening the well-being of justice-involved youth. I am proud of our youth for demonstrating their commitment to higher education and a willingness to move beyond the obstacles they face to obtain such an important milestone toward a bright future.”

Commencement speaker Charles Hankerson, a Senior Marketing Manager at CTS Engineering with more than 16 years of railroad experience, is a living testament to the transformative power of education and rehabilitative services DJJ provides. Hankerson shared his journey through the juvenile system in the late 1990s to holding some of the highest-ranking positions in national and international rail operations.

“I hope that the Class of 2024 understands that there is a path forward,” said Hankerson. “I was not the model person coming through DJJ because I did not think I had hope. I remember looking out the window at the Augusta Regional Youth Detention Center when I was a teenager, counting the cars that went by and saying there has to be a better life out there. It all began with me when I graduated high school from DJJ.”

DJJ partners with the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) to prepare students for a wide range of careers, including technical training through the Career Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE) program. Class of 2024 CTAE students earned certifications in Barbering Fundamentals, Microsoft Excel Application Specialist, Prep Cook, and Welding.

DJJ congratulated its first female graduate to earn a Gas Metal Arc Technical Certificate of Credit from Central Georgia Technical College through the TCSG Mobile Welding Lab this year. The program prepares students for welding careers and includes an introduction to welding technology, oxyfuel cutting techniques, and welding techniques and processes. The Technical College System of Georgia deploys Mobile Welding Labs for use by technical colleges around the state to help address the critical shortage of welders in Georgia.

“We strive to prepare youth to have successful careers when they return to their communities,” said Dr. Letunya Walker, DJJ Deputy Superintendent of Schools. “The welding training program has opened the door for our youth to pursue careers in the high-demand field of welding. Thank you to all the DJJ School System team members who are committed to serving the young lives in our care and work tirelessly each day to ensure that they can accomplish their goals.”

DJJ facilities with graduates included Augusta, Eastman, Macon, Milledgeville, and Muscogee YDCs, Bob Richards, Cadwell, Claxton, Crisp, Gainesville, Macon, Martha K. Glaze, Rockdale, and Terrell RYDCs, and Macon, Muscogee, and Savannah Education Transition Centers (ETCs).

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 ETCs 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.

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The Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice is a multi-faceted agency that serves the state's justice-involved youth up to 21 years of age. The Department's mission is to transform young lives by providing evidence-based rehabilitative treatment services and supervision, strengthening youth and families' well-being, and fostering safe communities.


Communications Glenn Allen