Silver Oak Academy look toward future at graduation

Eighteen-year-old Jovan Roberts has spent the last eight months at Silver Oak Academy.

In that time, he got his certified nursing assistant/geriatric nursing assistant certification and was named salutatorian.


“I came here [because of] juvenile charges,” said Roberts, of Baltimore.

He said he made some poor decisions. But that’s in the past now.

“Coming from the place that I came from … I’m just proud of myself,” he said.

Silver Oak Academy is a private, residential all-boys facility contracted by the state for youth who have been in trouble with the law. Roberts was one of 14 graduates — 13 of whom walked — at Thursday’s ceremony.

Roberts said his plan is to work in the nursing field. It’s something new to do, he said. And that future, and the ability to find success, is in large part due to Silver Oak.

“It’s a second chance that I thought I never would have,” he said.

The graduates will go in multiple directions after graduation, some heading to community college, others to four-year schools, many heading into the workforce and others heading into military service.

While Silver Oak is for boys who have gotten into legal trouble, Thursday’s ceremony was like any other graduation — the students made their way to their seats in shiny, red caps and gowns as a band played “Pomp and Circumstance.” The crowd filled with friends, family and community members roared with cheers and applause as the boys walked through.

Kevin McLeod, executive director of Silver Oak Academy, said they work with students at the school to complete their education and help them find opportunities after graduation.

“We provide academic services, treatment services [and] behavioral services,” he said.

McLeod said Silver Oak provides a second chance for the boys who come there. It allows them to get away from the trouble they were in, he added.

Principal Catherine Gammage told the graduates the one thing she knows about them is that they’ve got perseverance, and have struggled. Even still, she said, they’ve excelled in academics, vocations and athletics.

“You’ve grown social and emotionally. We are so proud of you,” Gammage said.

The graduation ceremony also included a key ceremony, where students had the opportunity to give wooden carved keys made by one of the graduates to a person — be it a family member, a friend or a Silver Oak teacher or staff member — who helped them find success on their path in life.


Johnny Shelton, the Ravens chaplain and this year’s keynote speaker, spoke to the graduates about finding their purpose in life. He broke purpose out into an acronym, starting with P, for passion.

The Carroll County NAACP will hold its 15th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast on Saturday, Jan. 27 and the keynote speaker will be Kevin McLeod, executive director of Silver Oak Academy.

Passion is that heartbeat that gets you out of bed each day, Shelton said. It’s something you must have.

U is for understanding, Shelton said. “If you don’t know, you don’t know,” he said.

It’s important to have direction, he said, and one must understand their passion.

R is for relationships, he said.

“You didn’t get here, to this point, by yourself.”

Humans are not “lone rangers,” he said. It’s important to be able to ask for help.

Shelton said P is a reminder to put ourselves in position because one must be in the right position to find success.

O is for being obedient, he said.

“There are laws. There are rules. There are right ways to do things and wrong ways to do things,” Shelton said.

S is for seizing the moment, he said, and finally, E is for expectations.

Shelton said he has to have an expectation of excellence to get where he wants to be.

“It’s not what’s on the outside that counts. It’s what’s on the inside,” he said. “Finding your purpose … you will change the world.”