Graduation Honors a Life Change for Midland Teens

By: Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND - Cue the Pomp and Circumstance. Thursday night,  A dozen teens graduated from Midland County's Alternative Education program, but this isn't any ordinary ceremony, NewsWest 9 caught up with the grads who share their stories.

They went to the courtroom with a flood of problems.

"Fighting and starting food fights," Graduate, Cain Maddaford, said.

"I accidentally hit a teacher," Graduate, Kody McQuitty said. "He didn't file charges on me thank God. I regretted it and I went to the program."

But 12 Midland teenagers say they're leaving their graduation from the Teen Leadership Academy completely changed.

"My attitude, respect, self control," Graduate, Justin Harper, said. "I don't get in trouble as often."

"Just to be a better person at school and not get in trouble as much so I can help me and my parents out," McQuitty said.

These students and their parents have spent the past 12 weeks in classes and counseling.
They even paid a visit to the jail and after that the kids say their decision to change wasn't a hard one.

"They let people in there for murder out and talk to us and it scared me," Maddaford said. "I didn't want to end up in there."

"It's really uplifting because you see a change in these individuals," Midland County Judge, David Cobos, said. "When they first come in they're not very respectful, they're goofing off, but you see that change. They're more responsible - they accept responsibility and they're accountable for their actions."

"I'm not so rude anymore," Maddaford said. "Whenever people do bump into me or something, I don't react like I used to do."

And the footprints of the Academy aren't only left on these students, the trails extend to their friends and families.

"It will change us because we know how to approach him, how to handle him now, things to do with him and things he likes to do," Barney Barham, Kody's Grandfather said. "We're going to back him all the way."

"I'm definitely going to think back on this the rest of my life," Maddaford said. "I'm going to think back when I'm in situations that I think are going to get me in trouble. I'm going to remember the program and make the right choice."

Since the program started, directors say they've helped over 700 families. Judge Cobos tells NewsWest 9, it's pretty successful. He almost never sees the students back in the courtroom after they've completed the course.