Graduates grateful for second chances

Number of graduates: 15

Class colors: Black and silver

Student representatives: Devontae Heard and Kashe’a Bembry

Source: Mahoning County High School

By Sean Barron


Last year, Ibn James was an East High School honor-roll student, but one poor decision led to his expulsion.

Nevertheless, anyone who makes a wrong choice should be given another chance and not judged by that mistake, he says.

Not only was Ibn given a second chance, but he was handed his high-school diploma during Friday’s Mahoning County High School Class of 2011 commencement ceremony at the school, 3321 Hudson Ave., on the city‘s South Side.

Now, he has put the negative experience behind him and has his sights set on college this fall with hopes of being a criminal-justice major.

“I want to be a criminal-defense attorney so I could give people a second chance like I’ve been given,” Ibn said, adding that he plans to take a few classes this summer to get a jump-start on his studies.

He was one of 15 students who crossed the stage and received diplomas during the one-hour program.

Entering the Air Force is the top priority for Leonard Ellis, 17, who attended MCHS for more than a year after having been on Chaney High School’s honor roll.

His immediate plans, however, are a bit simpler: to celebrate his accomplishment and spend time with family.

“It’s an excellent, awesome school,” Leonard said of MCHS, adding that his backup plan is to attend the University of Akron.

“I made a stupid decision, but [later] made a negative into a positive,” said graduate Devontae Heard, who’s planning to attend Youngstown State University to study graphic design and be a member of the YSU Penguins basketball team.

Devontae said he’s unsure what type of work his major will lead to. He feels certain, though, that whatever path he takes will result in a successful and fulfilling career and life.

“I’m very faithful in my God. He’ll bring me through any way he can,” he added.

The commencement speaker was Breanna Myers, a 2010 MCHS graduate who talked about how the school helped her get her life back on track.

Myers, the mother of 10-month-old daughter, Eliza, and a YSU criminal-justice major, urged the graduates to make each day a learning experience. Having a diploma marks a beginning, not an end, of their journey, added Myers, whose ambition is to be a lawyer.

The school, in its third year, has 98 students in grades nine through 12, noted administrator Jennifer B. Whittemore.

MCHS tries to provide a therapeutic environment and support system to the students, many of whom have difficulty fitting into a traditional school setting, Whittemore explained.

“These are kids who needed a second chance,” she continued, adding that many of the students live in single-family homes, are surrounded by drug abuse and face other difficulties.

Originally, MCHS took those who had been suspended or expelled from high schools throughout the county, Whittemore noted. Eventually, the school accepted students via open enrollment, as well as others who had dropped out but returned to graduate, she said.

Remarks also were made by Anthony D’Apolito, MCHS board president; Joseph Knoll, assistant superintendent, Mahoning County Educational Service Center; the Rev. Lewis Macklin II, pastor of Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church; and Judge Theresa Dellick of Mahoning County Juvenile Court.

The program also featured a slide show to the song “One Moment in Time” by Whitney Houston.

The other 12 graduates are Jeffrey Bachani, Kashe’a Bembry, Talawrence Brooks, Michael Brown, Shavonte Chester, Dabrail Jamison, Vanity Jones, Courtney Phillips, Turaysia Rodgers, Jonathan Stevens, Domonique Williams and Tarazia Wolfe.

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