Hope on the horizon for new graduates

President Thomas Jefferson once said, “If you want something you never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.”

This is one of the several quotes given at the Drug Treatment Court Graduation held Feb. 13 in the City Hall.

Friends and family crowded the small courtroom to celebrate their loved ones’ accomplishments and praise them for their hard efforts in staying drug-free.

Various local officials gave inspiring speeches of pride and hope for their six graduates.

Rev. Matt Nycz of the Blessed Mary Angela Parish said a few words about the gift of life and support they get from their creator when they struggle.

“During this harsh cold winter we know in our hearts spring is coming,” he said. “Spring is here today for those who are clean and sober starting a new chapter in their lives.”

Judge Walter Drag added his own inspiring words to the group.

“Thomas Edison is one of our greatest inventors and even he failed 1,000 times,” he said. “You have to ask yourself are you prepared to get up one more time and make a change.”

Fall to Rise was the theme given throughout the graduation.

Anne Frank’s quote about everyone having a piece of good news inside them was one out of many examples given of this theme.

“No matter what we face in life it doesn’t have to keep us down,” Drag said. ” We fall so we can rise.”

Drug Treatment Court Coordinator LeeAnn Lazarony is in charge of evaluating these people in jail and reports her findings to the judge.

“Not one of them had it easy,” she said. “It is always nice to see them be successful.”

Lazarony added there are no words to describe how it feels to help someone see they can make a change in their life.

“We all have things we don’t like about ourselves and things we aren’t proud of, but we aren’t here to judge,” she said. “This has been emotionally fulfilling and rewarding.”

“They make a come back and it is really amazing to sit back and watch their journey,” Lazarony continued. “They do become more than just acquaintances after awhile.”

The six graduates after receiving their certificates were allowed to offer a few words to the crowd.

“For a long time I stayed as a teen in my life,” Stacee said. “This program helped me grow up.”

“You have to take it all one day at a time,” Andy said. “There are little stumbles along the way.”

“I figured out that in order to see the rainbow you have to get through the rain,” Lorie said. “Sometimes it’s the anchor that is drowning you when you are trying to stay afloat.”

“This program saved my life,” an Air Force veteran said. ” I have cheated death way too many times.”

“I lost some old friends but gained some new ones along the way,” Ackeena said. “I learned a lot of positive things.”

“Please don’t quit or give up on us,” Dan said. “We may say we got this but it’s a lie; if you stick it out you will end up with the greatest gift of all.”

Drag said there are no favorites in the program.

“We get really involved with their lives and want them to succeed,” he said. “We believe in you and want you to get the treatment for a better future.”

Fredonia Judge David Prince added his beliefs on the program.

“I have been in this business for 47 years and it doesn’t get any easier,” he said. “The problems with drugs is unbelievable.”

“Sometimes I think what the heck am I doing here,” he said. “It is so important and makes me feel good when someone proves me wrong; don’t let us down.”

Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan received the Beacon of Hope Award from Judge Drag.

“Today (Feb. 13) is the neatest day of my life so far,” he said. “I feel so strongly for this county and the people.”

Horrigan commented on the graduates’ success.

“The real success of a country is everyone of us being all we can be,” he said. “Strengthening our communities is more important.”

“The Dunkirk Lighthouse has guided people to safety for years and we need agencies in the county to guide us to safety,” Drag said as he presented Horrigan with a picture of the Dunkirk Lighthouse. “We can’t do it alone.”

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