First drug court class graduates 18 earn another chance in life
There were no questions Thursday night about what they've been up to the past week, how the job search is going or how they got started using drugs.
For 18 participants in Kane County's Drug Rehabilitation Court program, Thursday night was a day to celebrate. It was graduation day, and their last official visit before Kane County Judge James Doyle.
"It's an honor and a privilege to stand before you clean and serene," said Vernita McGee, a 30-year-drug addict and, now, a drug court graduate. "I am a witness that this program really works."
McGee and the rest of her graduating class are the first to celebrate the end of their two-year involvement in the two-year-old drug court program. Those involved can avoid incarceration by successfully completing the program.
"This program gave me my life back and for that I am grateful," the Aurora woman said to the hundreds of people gathered at Christ Community Church in St. Charles for the graduation.
Doyle started the drug court program as a way to help addicts kick their habits. The program combines treatment and enforcement - including weekly visits before Doyle and drug testing three times a week - to help recovering addicts stay clean.
Though the graduates were celebrating a milestone in their sobriety, they also noted it is not the end of their recovery effort.
"I might have a long road ahead of me, but I can see clearly now and I enjoy every minute," said one of the graduates, who asked that her name not be used.
Doyle didn't offer any advice-filled speech, but other judges offered words of encouragement.
"The lessons learned in drug rehabilitation court must be practiced the rest of your lives," said Judge Philip DiMarzio, Kane County's presiding felony court judge.
Thursday's graduation drew the attention of officials from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America who spent the day visiting with a mothers group who organized the graduation, and with graduates of the program.
The head of a national drug court group also was on hand to congratulate the program's first graduates.
"While things are easier than they used to be, life will not be without challenges," said retired Judge Karen Freeman-Wilson, who heads the National Association for Drug Court Professionals. "The best part is you have the tools, perseverance and the inner strength it takes to achieve your goals."