The IL Program youth had the main say in everything from decorations to t-shirt design.

A full house gathered to celebrate the achievements of over 25 individuals who earned their high school diplomas or GED certificates in the Blueprints Independent Living program.

The independent living program serves to guide adjudicated dependent and/or delinquent youth, 14-21 years of age.

The event, largely planned and implemented by Blueprints caseworkers and the youth themselves, was held at 5 p.m., Thursday, June 28 at Julian’s Banquet Hall in Washington, Pa. The youth had the main say in everything from table decorations to T-shirt design.

Amanda Pratt opened the banquet with a warm welcome before turning the mic over to Dakota Mickel who offered the prayer before tables were dismissed to line up for the buffet-style meal.

After the more-than-140 guests enjoyed the food, Taylor Hurt (IL youth, Master of Ceremony) introduced caseworker Haylee Dames to congratulate the recent graduates and GED recipients. She shared the goals and accomplishments of each youth, who then collected a certificate and a gift for their commitment to the program. Each and every person acknowledged was met with hearty applause from the banquet guests.

Danielle Killen next took to the microphone to acknowledge the other program participants’ accomplishments throughout the year.

IL Youth and master of ceremonies Taylor Hurt spoke of her goals for the future.

Next came the testimonials. Taylor Hurt spent more time at the microphone this time, as she detailed what the program meant to her, how she has helped herself to succeed, and what her goals for the future have become.

Taylor Hurt was followed by Jacqua Jordan who spoke on behalf of someone who could not be at the event for personal reasons. She shared her story with the support of a friend and then detailed what the program meant for her.

The final personal speech was by Shaniah Hobbs, who also shared her own struggles and how the Independent Living program helped her to gain the self-sufficiency needed to overcome them.

Raffle and door prizes were distributed to the lucky winners before closing remarks were made by Amanda Pratt, who thanked everyone for coming.

Blueprints provides training and resources to help them gain self-reliance and self-confidence.  Through life skills training and case management, the agency helps them reach their own individual life goals.

Youths who participate in the Independent Living program get help with a variety of things to allow a smoother transition into adulthood, and Blueprints continues to provide guidance and support in daily living and decision making. For example, they might get help enrolling and moving into college, enlisting and leaving for the military, or finding supports for permanent housing. Blueprints keeps the realistic goals of each person in mind.

Blueprints is a change agency that serves as the catalyst to mobilize the resources of the entire community to enable families and individuals in Southwestern Pennsylvania and West Virginia to attain the skills, knowledge, motivations and opportunities to become self-sufficient.

Program eligibility varies by program. Please contact Blueprints for additional information by browsing this website; calling (724)-225-9550; or following us on Facebook @myblueprintsorg.

Pictured are Gwen Davis, Blueprints program director, with commissioners Harlan Shober (right) and Larry Maggi (left.)