Celebrating the Class of 2023

Dear CJA Community,

On 8 June 2023, we celebrated CJA’s fifteenth graduating class—the Class of 2023. This year’s ceremony was held at Dominican University’s Performing Arts Center in River Forest. It was a beautiful evening filled with incredible love and support for our graduates. As a beloved volunteer often says, “there is always a bit of gold at CJA”, and I’d like to share some of the gold that I collected at graduation.

Each Friday morning throughout the school year, we gather as a school community for our weekly chapel service. At the beginning of chapel, we read a list of personalized praise in recognition of the wonderful things that our students do every day. One of my favorite parts of graduation is the reading of the final praise list. There was a running theme of resilience throughout the praise for this remarkable group of young men. Selfadvocacy, passion, persistence and authenticity were examples of just a few of the words that were used to describe our 8th graders.

Earlier that evening, I assisted each of our guys as they tied their ties and buttoned their blazers. As they made their way to have their professional picture taken, I asked how they were feeling. It’s no wonder that they often remarked, “I feel ready!” Their demeanor, their smiles and their confidence signaled that they were prepared to take the next steps on their unique paths toward meaningful employment and as people for others.

Our commencement speaker and Board Member, Dorian Orr, shared three life lessons with our graduates that I think were spot on for this talented group of achievers:

  1. Define your version of success and happiness
  2. You don’t have to have all the answers, but it helps to have a plan
  3. You were put here by God to be blessings to others

The third point hit home for many of us in the crowd, and I hope that it served as reassurance for student’s like Malcolm, a trusted friend whom many of his peers routinely rely on as a steady presence, or Osmar, whose patience, kindness, and leadership with younger students has been an inspiration this year. We are so proud of all of our 8th graders’ growth throughout their time at CJA and look forward to continuing to walk alongside them through the age of 25.

Thank you, Dorian, for delivering an inspirational message to our graduates and for your unwavering support and mentorship of our students and alumni since your introduction to CJA in 2019.

Thank you also to Dominican University for graciously sharing their space with us as we near the end of the construction of our campus expansion to serve both girls and boys.

In gratitude,

Jessica Green Clement
Senior Development Officer

Graduate at Graduation Award Winners

Committed to Doing Justice

“Over the course of his 7th and 8th grade years, Jacob became respected as the go-to person in his class for advice and guidance. His peers know they can trust and rely on him. He has not been afraid to speak the hard truth when it has been needed, even when it may cause a ripple amongst his classmates. Because that ripple is justice in motion.”

Seeking Intellectual Excellence

“The award for intellectual excellence this year goes to two individuals who exemplify that pursuit of academic excellence. In looking back at the records, it wasn’t just the grades or test scores that were impressive for these young men. It was their consistency; they made excellence a habit and they spread this habit to their classmates. It gives me great pleasure to give the award for Intellectual Excellence to Josue and Xavier.”


“His voice complemented classmates’ accomplishments, and soothed the 3rd grader who was having a bad day. Someone whose love for family is palpable when you see them together and who sees his teachers as partners in his education and nourishes those relationships with kindness and respect. It is my pleasure to name this year’s winner of the Loving Award, Jaxson.”

Open to Growth

“In class, while reviewing his work in groups, he is hungry for growth. At practice, hearing a critique of his form, decision-making, or knowledge of the game, he is hungry for growth. At home, by himself, when he could be relaxing but chooses to do more iReady, he is hungry for growth. I am so proud to acknowledge our 2023 recipient of the grad-at-grad award for open to growth – Benayah.”


“His love and respect for all of God’s creation is evident in his interactions with plants, animals, classmates, teachers, and family. He understands the interconnectedness of life and the responsibility we have to care for the world around us. It is an honor to present this year’s religious award to Christian.”

Congratulations to the Class of 2023