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Friday, June 26, 2009

A Highland Park haven for troubled youth says goodbye to the class of 2009

In 1906 the Strickland family of Highland Park welcomed an orphaned nephew on to their small farm where they raised chickens and sold dairy products in the northern fringe of the city. Soon after, the couple took in juvenile wards of the court and their farm was transformed into the Strickland Home for Boys. More than a century later, the former Strickland Home For Boys, which now operates as the coeducational Optimist Youth Home & Family Services, remains a refuge for troubled youth. This week, the LA Times profiled Optimist High School, which operates on the group's compound on North Figueroa Street, and some of this year's graduates:

"On Friday, Alfred Stern was dressed immaculately in shirt and tie and suit jacket, on his way to an interview for a spot in a transitional housing program. Stern, who was reading far below his age level two years ago, is now testing at the 12th-grade level. He did well enough at Optimist to be dually enrolled at Eagle Rock High School, from which he also graduated. Stern, too, spent time in Juvenile Hall. He won't say why. "I'm trying to let the past be the past."

Away from his Oakland home, he said, he began to concentrate on studies. "I stopped acting like a little kid. I had to grow up. I started pushing myself to not be at the level I was at."

He's looking for a job. "The profession I really want to go into is magic."

Read more about the Optimist High class of 2009.

Photo from the Optimist High web site.

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