MacLaren youth celebrate graduation
Almost 50 young men received diplomas at MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility's largest graduation ceremony to date Wednesday, June 27.
Of the graduates, 23 were awarded high school diplomas, 13 received General Education Degrees, and two received associate degrees from Chemeketa Community College.
The graduation was the first since youth and staff from Hillcrest Correctional Facility in Salem moved to MacLaren on Sept. 1, 2017. The staff and youth population of MacLaren doubled and there are now about 300 youth incarcerated in the facility.
Ezequiel (whose last name is intentionally withheld) was one of the young men to receive an associate degree Wednesday. He earned an Associate of Arts from Chemeketa Community College, taking online courses, and transferred to Oregon State University as a junior.
Lord High School teaching assistant Dagny Brown was beaming as she congratulated Ezequiel on his degree Wednesday.
"He's one of the most awesome students," she said. "I'm very proud."
Ezequiel is studying sociology, and said he intends to use his degree to work with at-risk youths who are struggling like he did growing up.
"The whole point of getting my degree is to work with at-risk youth, especially kids who are involved with gangs," he said.
Ezequiel, who is from Gresham, said that his college studies have helped him understand the conditions that led to his incarceration. Growing up he said he didn't have access to positive interactions and influences, and faced social barriers that led to involvement in a gang. After Ezequiel gets his degree in sociology he hopes to be a role model for his community.
"I have the experience and the life story, and I want to make a change in my community," he said.