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. Self–advocacy, 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:
- Define your version of success and happiness
- You don’t have to have all the answers, but it helps to have a plan
- 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.