— By SALLY SEXTON
Monday evening’s graduation ceremony was intended as a happy event — even so, when it was all said and done, there were very few dry eyes in the room.
The Parker County Community Learning Center held its first-ever graduation ceremony for its Serve, Earn and Learn program, honoring eight students at the Harberger Hill Community Center earlier this week.
Sedric Brown, Katie Clark, Reuben Flores, Brandon Garza, Mason Greenwalt, Nikolas Healer, Stephen Ruland and Joshua Park all received their certificates of completion, and will soon receive their National Center for Construction Education and Research certification via mail.
“We all wear many hats and we all work together,” Angela Traiforos, executive director of the CLC, said. “One thing we all have in common is to help those that want and need this service.”
The Community Learning Center acts as a way for young adults involved in the juvenile system to get help and keep them out of trouble while educating them for possible job opportunities once they graduate. Funded by a Department of Labor Grant received in 2012, CLC has had at least 30 participants enrolled at various times.
The program partners with the City of Weatherford, which provides office space and internship opportunities, and has done projects most recently on the Mount Pleasant Colored School as well as the Holland Lake cabins.
“It’s a privilege for me to be here and take part in this,” Weatherford City Manager Jerry Blaisdell said. “Weatherford is a stakeholder in this because we believe in this program.”
Blaisdell advised the graduates to learn from adversity to help develop character, and to always be the best, no matter what career path their futures might take.
Raymond George, who worked with the CLC and its participants and is heading the goal of preserving the schoolhouse, thanked the city for its support and the program for helping further his efforts.
“If it wasn’t for the CLC, I don’t know where I’d be,” he said. “I’ve had this idea [of restoring Mount Pleasant] for several years now.”
Some of the skills participants learned, under construction manager David Maisel, included dry walling, carpentry work and more.
“I’ve seen you all change and grow and I’m going to miss all of you,” Maizel said.
Prior the distribution of certificates, Pat Lane, president of CLC, invited comments from participants and their family members regarding the program and any chances they had noticed.
“I’m thankful for all of the people that I met,” said Brown, who also received the Copper Nail Award for most change overall.
“I can’t express how good this program is and how good David is,” a teary Greenwalt said. “I’m going to miss it and I don’t want it to end, but it’s a part of life.”
Connie Anderson, lead case manager for CLC, encouraged the graduates to stay in touch with administrators.
“When you leave, come back because we want to help get you jobs,” she said.
Serve, Earn and Learn also works with the participants to get them in college courses by helping them enroll or find financial aid opportunities. Depending on the course, the program may even fund the classes.
To find out more about the Community Learning Center and how to qualify for the program, visit www.clcinc.org.