During the April 10 Shelby County Board meeting, Chairman Dave Cruitt announced that there would be a Shelby County Drug Court graduation ceremony on Friday, April 12. The poceedings were to be held at the First Baptist Church and open to anyone wishing to attend. He also mentioned that when attending one of these ceremonies to "bring a good supply of tissues," as the stories and circumstances of the respondents would bring tears to your eyes.

I did indeed attend the ceremony, which is produced and monitored by the local judiciary, state's attorney's office, defense bar, probation, law enforcement, mental health and social services communities. I was impressed with the commitment that is needed not only by the program participants, but also by the total support of family, friends and the above named departments and agencies.

The graduation ceremony began with an opening and greeting from Heather Wade and Aaron Burdick. The program administrator, Judge Allan Lolie, next presented a short video on the overall drug court program and how it is administered here in Shelby County.

Next, drug court team members were introduced and all offered comments pertaining to the program and the current graduates. Team members: Judge Allan Loli, Aaron Burdick, Gina Vonderheide, Heather Wade, Brian Bach, Ed Lacheta, Bradford Rau, Rick Hoadley.

Continuing with the prgram was a locally produced personalized video of the three current graduates. This video was produced and arranged by Angel Durbin. It choreographed each graduate, from their initial insertion into the program to their final consultation with program counselors.

Next, each graduate (Nathan Dennis, Aaron Crandall and Marti Edwards) gave their grauation speeches and thoughts about their own personal struggles with drugs and alcohol. They also reported on where they were in life at the beginning of the prgram, the types of struggles and hard choices that had to be made, and the total commitment of not only themselves but also of family and friends. The results that everyone saw at this graduation ceremony could not have been possible without the unwavering support of drug court members and their positive guidance. As each graduate finished their comments, they were given three red roses to present to persons that they loved, cherished or counted on for comfort and support during their time in the program and who will continue to be by their side in the future.

Last on the program was the presentation of diplomas to each graduate. And the motion to dismiss pending charges by State's Attorney Gina Vonderheide, with the subsequent granting of dismissal by Judge Lolie.

I would make a suggestion to all persons of Shelby County – if you have never been to a drug court graduation ceremony, try and attend as it will reinstate your confidence not only in our legal system but law enforcement and the rehabilitation process as a whole. I also offer this caveat – "When you attend, bring a good supply of tissues," just as Dave Cruitt advised.

I congratulate the graduates, their families and friends, program directors, counselors, law enforcement and anyone connected with this process for a job well done.

Denny Drnjevic

District 8

Shelby County Board

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