Students graduate from Second Chance program

Published 6:26 pm Friday, June 2, 2017

Eleven Butler County students made the most of a second chance Thursday evening during the Class of 2017 Milestone Celebration of the Second Chance program.

The program serves as a partnership between the Butler County Board of Education and the Reid State Technical College Adult Education Program.

Guest speaker Emmett Johnson Jr. imparted some words of encouragement to an audience of graduates who endured a number of hardships and circumstances to achieve their goal.

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Johnson serves as the education director for SafetyNet Behavior Treatment Facility, which serves at-risk youth with special needs between the ages of 11-21.  He said that the job has given him a valuable perspective on the importance of education and overcoming obstacles.

“Sometimes, life doesn’t always give us what we want; sometimes it’s not easy,” he said. “Sometimes, it is difficult to get from where you are to where you want to be.”

In his role as a facilitator of the dream of education, he extended his services briefly to the Second Chance graduates by offering an extended metaphor of building bridges to one’s dreams.

The first tenet of bridge building, he said, was a strong foundation.

“You would not be here unless there was a foundation in the audience to help you to this point,” Johnson said. “For some of you, it was mothers and fathers. For others, it was aunts and uncles, sisters and brothers or nieces and nephews. Some had friends or people you met along the way to help you get to this point.”

The second tenet was accessibility.

“The worst thing in the world is to travel from point A to point B, and find out that when you get where you want to go that there’s a toll road in front of you—something that says you can’t go in unless you have access,” he said. “Your high school diploma opens up a brand-new bridge in life that affords you the opportunity to go some places that you’ve never gone before.”

Johnson unveiled a relatively expensive prop for his final tenet—a $100 bill.

Though it may leave the ATM in pristine condition, it would inevitably become balled up, crushed, ripped, torn and stepped on during the trials of life.

“Sometimes, there will be people in your life who will toss you to the ground and step on you, make you feel like everything that you tried to accomplish is meaningless,” he said as he symbolically stepped on the $100 bill.

But, as Johnson ripped the bill in half and taped it back together, he urged the graduates to remember that one’s value can’t be changed unless another is given permission to change it.

“You’ve got to go back to the authority in your life to be put back together again,” Johnson said. “While scotch tape may work for the $100 bill, there is a greater authority in life than scotch tape.  For me, the only way that I can put myself back together when I’ve been crushed, balled up and crumpled by life is to go to the authority, and say ‘God, put me back together again.’

“Your authority is not your teachers, it’s not this great facility, and it’s not your parents or the individuals who love you most. Your authority is God, and you can do all things through Christ, which strengthens you.”