Shawanna Perminter was out of control.
As a young teenager, she had already spent four-and-a-half months in juvenile detention and was on probation and house arrest for assaulting her mother.
Then she entered Youth for Tomorrow’s residential program.
Thursday, a little more than two years after entering the program, Perminter stood proudly before her family, friends and teachers as a high school graduate.
“I would like to thank my mother, who is sitting right there, for never giving up on me when other people told her she should,” Perminter, now 17, said as tears flowed down her cheeks and her voice cracked with emotion.
Her classmates shouted their support as she finished her speech.
“You go, Shawanna,” one student shouted.
“It’s OK to cry, let it out,” said another.
Perminter, who will attend Potomac State College in West Virginia in the fall, was among 12 students to receive high school diplomas at Youth for Tomorrow’s graduation ceremony Thursday morning.
Eight more were honored for completing the residential program.
Eight others graduated from the eighth grade.
Youth for Tomorrow is a faith-based, year-round residential program for at-risk youth based in Bristow.
“The 12 of you, you are my heroes because of what you’ve overcome,” Fauquier County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge H. Dudley Payne said to the graduates in his commencement address.
“You probably don’t understand yet how much you’ve overcome, but I know some of the stories that are in this room, and what you have accomplished is extraordinary,” he said.
Youth for Tomorrow was founded by Washington Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs, who also serves as chairman of the group’s Board of Trustees.
“It takes courage to do what you all did,” Gibbs told the graduates. “Most young people your age would not have the courage to come here and be successful.”