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Get High on Life

By Harold Keller / L’Observateur / September 2, 1998

Having children and grandchildren and because both my wife and I come from big families, I’ve attended many graduation ceremonies – pre-school, kindergarten, elementary, high school and college. You name it, I’veexperienced it. I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed any of them. Most of themwere too crowded, had too many boring speeches, and usually recognized people that didn’t need to be recognized.

When we think of a graduation, we usually think of the month of May. Well,last week, I attended a graduation. That’s right – an August graduation!What school? It wasn’t a school.

The ceremony was held at the KC Home in LaPlace and the function was to celebrate 52 young men receiving their GEDs. The young men who weregraduating were from the St. John Correctional Center. It was the firstheld for inmates in the Sheriff’s Boot Camp Program. Friends and relativeswere invited to attend and many accepted the invitation.

I was asked by Sheriff Wayne Jones to participate. It was a blessing forme to be a part of something exciting happening in the lives of some men who, maybe, had given up on life.

The Rev. Neil Bernard opened with the invocation and shared a few minutesabout the challenge to press on from here. He said, “Get prepared to takeyour place in society and be a productive person when you are released.”He challenged them to be God-fearing men and to continue their education.

The Master of Ceremonies was Sgt. Earnest Martin. When he ordered theinmates to attention, he scared me. He must have been a drill sergeant inthe service. He was hard, but you could feel the respect each man had forSgt. Martin. For some, this was the first time they had ever experiencedconstructive discipline.

Sheriff Jones was the guest speaker. He spoke well and you could tell hisonly desire for starting the Boot Camp and giving the men a chance to graduate from high school was to see lives changed. It was his decisionthat started everything in motion, which ended in 52 men graduating and feeling proud to have accomplished something.

I thanked the sheriff for caring for some people who maybe even cared themselves. I believe, because this program was initiated, most of thosemen will never return to jail again.

There’s a saying that people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. You could tell Sheriff Jones really cared.Warden Steven Guidry, who has the responsibility of supervising all the inmate activities, was the last speaker. He shared his heart with the menand related his position as a father-figure.

A good father loves his children and, in doing so, wants the best for them and, therefore, disciplines them. You got the feeling Guidry was in controlof his assigned duties.

After the ceremony, the graduates were allowed an hour or so to mingle with family and friends – a privilege well-earned.

I thank God I was allowed to witness Him at work through people who cared.

Harold Keller is a regular columnist for L’Observateur .

Copyright © 1998, Wick Communications, Inc.

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