Recognition Ceremony for Backbone College Students Held at GC

At the request of officials of the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services, students are indentified by first names only.

State and local officials of the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services (DJS) joined family members and friends in the auditorium of Garrett College to take part in the Recognition of Achievement Ceremony for students participating in the Garrett Backbone College Program. A Cooperative Learning Opportunities Program offered by Garrett College in collaboration with DJS, this education initiative was launched in 2006 and has since awarded certificates of completion to nearly 200 students.

Elizabeth Grant, Garrett College Associate Professor of Social Sciences and a founder and coordinator of the Garrett Backbone College Program, welcomed the guests and ceremony participants. She addressed the students, calling them pioneers. “Gentlemen, you are the first class ever in this program for each member to have completed a full college credit semester load of at least 12 credits. You have raised the bar for all who will follow,” she said.

Michael Lewis, Principal, DJS, thanked the parents and family members in attendance and noted that it was a great day for all involved. He also thanked the students themselves. “You are special. You are determined. We are proud of you,” he said.

Tyler, one of the Backbone College students, took the podium next to explain what the college program had given him. “I have learned to listen and to think. I have learned to make the right choices. I am thankful for reaching a changing point in my life.”

Another student, Dajon, also spoke of the college program as a turning point in his life. “Before I came to this program I didn’t really want to do anything. I didn’t care. Now I do, and I’m thankful for this chance. I have made mistakes and will make more, but I will learn from my experiences,” he said.

Dave Simanski of DJS described the experience of one student who made the decision to change the course of his life. When he learned about the Garrett Backbone College Program he asked to be admitted. Simanski questioned the young man, who had not completed high school. “He told me he had never cared before but now he did. So he studied and achieved a GED while taking 12 credits of college courses. He did it himself,” Simanski said.

Robert McElvie, DJS Region III Director, noted that a key to future success would probably be a good support system. He then challenged the students to identify the support systems that they will have when they return home.

Each student was then recognized and presented with a certificate of completion. A reception for students, families, instructors, and administrators followed.

And what are the students planning for their futures? Dajon has already filled out college applications back home and said he would like to study something in the technology field. Richard said he has plans include attending Montgomery College to study either law or business. Cameron will attend Ann Arundel Community College to pursue his studies in math or juvenile justice.

John Etgen, father of one of the students praised the Garrett Backbone College Program. “When you show kids that they can be successful, particularly those who haven’t experienced success, you give them a jump start. They begin to believe in themselves. You can see it in their eyes. You can’t put a value on that,” he said.