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The 12 cadets breathed in and held it until the commander said, "Now let it out!"
"They're coming," could be heard from the stands Friday morning as a group of about 30 cadets dressed in fatigues marched to the front parking lot of the Judge Mario E. Ramirez Jr. Juvenile Justice Center's Boot Camp Facility. Their families waited eagerly on two sets of bleachers under a clear blue sky.
Soon after, one of the cadets who had previously asked the commander to speak took the stand.
"I've never felt like this in my life" he said. "When I first came here I thought, 'Ain't no one gonna change me.' But without me even realizing, my thinking began to change. I never knew how smart I was. I feel confident."
The commander then turned to the parents and said, "I'm going to show you how motivated your kids are. Take a deep breath, boys."
Some of the sons were recognized immediately. Us Polo T Shirts Online Discount
Edwin Hugo Hi, of Mercedes, was 13 when he was admitted to the facility; he turned 14 at the camp.
"We have done everything we can," De Luna said to the audience. He then asked the parents to stand. "Now it's your turn. If they fail it will be your fault."
"It takes a lot Lacoste Green Preppy Sunglasses of counseling to get them to focus on academics again," said one of the teachers Weslaco school district assigned to teach the boys. Getting them up to par academically is one of the center's main objectives.
Judge Mario E. Ramirez Jr., along with the boot camp Commander Rene De Luna, the superintendent and a representative for 449th state District Judge Jesse Contreras took turns praising the teens for their dedication, motivation and attention to detail. They used the achievements of the Mayan and Aztec civilizations to instill a sense of pride in them.
They will be registered for classes at a high school and will only be allowed to go home to their parents on the weekends after earning a pass. A point system based on several criteria such as school performance will determine whether they receive a pass.
and drug use, said his 20 year old sister, Esmeralda Hi.
The teenagers have to be court appointed to the program and must go through a series of physical and psychological tests to be admitted to the facility. Once there, they are subjected to a rigorous rehabilitation regimen that lasts an average of nine months.
Although the cadets have graduated from boot camp, they will not be immediately allowed to return home.
Area youth graduate from boot camp for juvenile offenders
"It would be almost a culture shock," said one of the camp's probation officers. Instead, the boys will spend another three months in an after care program that will help them gradually readjust to everyday life.
"It's been hard," Hi said. "I didn't want to stay here, but I'm glad I did."
"You are the master of your destiny," one of them said. "We want you to wake up and realize your potential."
Some of them came in with no high school credits, she said. But after nine months, all the grads had finished at least one year of schooling. One had gone from a freshman to a junior, and one of them is now a senior getting ready to graduate from high school.
The teenager, who was already involved with gangs, was part of this month's graduating class. Hi, like many of the other cadets, said he missed about a year of school, which left him with a big academic gap.
The 12 graduates were asked to step forward and form a line in front of the group. As the judge, commander, and superintendent handed each of them his diploma, some of them couldn't help but sneak in a half smile.
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WESLACO Twelve families who were once at their wits' ends with uncontrollable children gathered to see those sons graduate in Weslaco.
Others were not.
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get lost for two or three days," his older brother, Roberto Hi, added.
He was very proud of an Excellence in Physical Training award he had received while at the camp and said that although he figuratively kicked and screamed at times, he was happy.
The center takes in boys ages 13 16 who are not good candidates for home probation but don't really need to go to Texas Youth Commission lockups, said the boot camp's Superintendent Richard Garza.
Many of the cadets felt the same way.
A boisterous "AGGGGGHHHH!" resonated from the parking lot where they stood. Soon after, sniffles could be heard from the crowd.
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