An Extra-Special Graduation Ceremony

An Extra-Special Graduation Ceremony

An Extra-Special Graduation Ceremony

A couple weeks ago, three very proud young people were the stars of their high school graduation at Dakota Memorial School.

That was kind of a funny time of year for a graduation. It also doesn't sound like a very large graduation class.

Well, here is the rest of the story (apologies to Paul Harvey). These three remarkable people will each turn 18 prior to the normal graduation period in May. Because the Ranch's traditional residential programming serves children up to the age of 18, these kids are starting the next part of their lives. They made a commitment to themselves, their teachers, and those they love, to complete all requirements for graduation prior to turning 18 so they could graduate from the on-site school at the Ranch... the place they finally found academic success.

This was a big journey for these kids. In addition to being trauma survivors, they have a variety of other barriers to overcome—including disrupted families, poverty, addiction, and a variety of psychiatric issues like autism, ADHD, and PTSD. Two of them are the first in their families to graduate high school.

They each met the complete set of standards required by the Department of Education for high school graduation. "How" they learned was individualized to them at Dakota Memorial School, but "what" they learned was the same as any other graduate.

What wasn't the same was the emotions in the room. Because of COVID, each group of "their people" sat in a pod, separated from the other groups, staff, teachers, and other children at the Ranch. When "Pomp and Circumstance" began to play, each of the three walked all the way to their chairs among their supporters, before the next graduate began their walk. They each had the focus of the moment. Two gave speeches and thanked staff and teachers. One cried as he shared his thanks. The cheers for each of them when they were handed their diplomas were not just celebratory—but victorious.

And we thanked God for giving these special young people the strength and resilience they needed to graduate.

When my children graduated from high school, each of their classes held over 400 children. The graduations were large and flamboyant and filled with eloquent speeches from children who will be Senators and Doctors and Military Leaders. They were great events.

They were not, however, as truly triumphant as the graduation of these three young people, surrounded by love, in the first week of January of 2021.

Stay well.

In His love,

Joy Ryan, President/CEO
Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch


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