City Judge Walter Drag told the five new graduates of the Dunkirk City Drug Treatment Court it's OK to get dirty. By that he meant that a person must work hard to pursue a passion.
Drag, known for both tough love and love of country music, creates a theme for each graduation ceremony. This time his theme was dirt. "Dirt" is a song recorded by Canadian country music singer Dean Brody. The music and lyrics inspired Drag.
"Dirt is something we take for granted,"Drag said. "It's where we stand. What could kids play in without dirt?"
OBSERVER Photo by Diane R. Chodan
Lt. Daniel Gonzalez of the Salvation Army gives the invocation to open the Dunkirk City Drug Treatment Court’s graduation/open house. Left to right are: Circle of Love founder Josie Christopher and SUNY Fredonia college president Virginia Schaefer Horvath. Christopher gave the main address while Horvath was there to accept a certificate of appreciation from the program.
The next point he made is that not all dirt is the same. Sand doesn't hold water. Clay holds water. There is fertile topsoil and rocky soil.
Tying this to life experience, he said, "We don't know what kind of soil we're going to get. ... Each of us has been dealt a bag of soil. We need to improve the soil so we can flourish."
To illustrate his point and to give those attending the graduation something to remember, he had filled a number of zip lock bags with different kinds of dirt, and invited those in attendance to take one home.
His wife Susan, who is a member of a garden club, told him to add flower bulbs to the packages.
A farmer has to match plants to the soil and conditions. Certain plants are adapted to grow in sand while others wither away. Some soils are good for grapes while others are not.
Like the farmer, "we have to address how we are going to match our lives to what we are working with," Drag said.
Treatment Court Coordin-ator LeeAnn Lazarony introduced each graduate and presented a certificate of completion. In turn each of the graduates spoke.
One graduate wanted to pass on what she had learned to other participants in the program. For her the key was attitude and she spoke eloquently on the subject.
"We have the power to make choices (about our attitude)," she said. "We can choose to give up or continue."
A male graduate confided, "I lost a friend to drugs and alcohol."
Another graduate said she is an addict, but she looks forward to each day and maintaining sobriety. She thanked her family members, including her 95-year-old grandmother, for their support
"I thought I knew everything but I didn't." a male said after thanking those who helped him.
Keynote speaker was the founder of Circle of Love Josie Christopher. As a "down-to-earth" person, she fit in well with the theme.
Christopher said she faced obstacles, such as coming to this country from Sicily and not knowing English. Eventually she became a licensed practical nurse and took a special interest in fitting prosthesis for breast cancer patients. She founded the Circle of Love.
Her wide ranging remarks included many observations about life. They brought smiles from the audience at large. Christopher had a special bond with a graduate who volunteered in her organization and with Judge Drag who said she was a friend of his mother.
"Nobody can tell me at 78 what I can't do," she said.
Talking about religious differences she said, "Nobody has a cornerstone on salvation."
SUNY Fredonia President Virginia Schaefer Horvath attended the graduation. She accepted a certificate of appreciation on behalf of the college. Since 2002, the college has placed 50 interns with the drug court. The first intern, LeeAnn Lazarony, now is employed as the Treat-ment Court Coordinator.
Horvath spoke briefly. As president of SUNY she thanked the court for the certificate and praised the drug court program and its work and the students who have interned there. As a citizen, she indicated how impressed she was with the graduates and wished them well in their future.
The Beacon of Hope award which honors a community member who has made a difference in the lives of those enrolled in drug treatment court was presented to probation officer Thomas Narraway.
After the ceremony, refreshments were served.
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