The evening of Friday, May 24, provided the perfect setting for the 2019 Boys Ranch Baccalaureate service held at the community’s chapel. As the sun gradually set on this still, beautiful evening, several hundred supporters of this year’s graduating seniors gathered to lift them up in celebration, encouragement and prayer.
Keeping the tradition of many years prior, the Class of 2019 decked in their caps and gowns, made their way to the front of the chapel. As the class filled the front pews, they sat together for an evening filled with reminiscing, music, advice and the presentation of bibles to each graduate.
The evening opened with a beautiful slide show featuring numerous photos of each senior during his or her time at Boys Ranch. The show brought many laughs and claps from the gradutes.
Chaplain Mike Wilhelm provided a welcome to the audience, noting the purpose of the baccalaureate event.
“It is our intention here tonight to send you forth with the blessing of Jesus Christ, asking for his guidance and protection in your lives and praying that you will accept his wisdom in all humilities,” Wilhelm told the seniors. “We will pray that you go forth to make this place a better place, a place that is not a world of more noisy ambition, but one of kindness, understanding, hard work and courage. We hope you bring these things into a world that desperately needs it.”
Having survived abuse as a child and learning to overcome the hardships of life, LaTonya is now married with four children, two biological and two adopted. She has also earned a master’s degree in social work from West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas.
LaTonya’s message to the class was to do what you can, with what you have, where you’re at.
“I embraced this while I was here and it followed me into college and into life,” she said.
She assured the young people that Boys Ranch has equipped them with the knowledge and skills they need for their futures.
“Don’t look back, run towards your future,” LaTonya encouraged. “Remember you’re a survivor, and one day you will see your story as a unique perspective and understanding that you get to provide to others and to your children about life.”
In closing, she said that her children get to have a future because a future was given to her while in our supportive and healing community.
“I can honestly say that between God and Boys Ranch my life was changed forever,” she said. “I get to live this very blessed life because of those two things.”
Following LaTonya’s moving message, Boys Ranch graduates were introduced as they crossed the stage to be congratulated and gifted a new bible from chapel staff.
To commence the evening’s service a collective prayer was said for our inspiring young men and women, who then stood together to walk outside the chapel doors, one more step closer to achieving that very important milestone.