“This place is temporary. It may not be home,
but it’s as close to home as you’re gonna get.”
– Tyler


After more than a year of hard work, Tyler received enough credits to graduate from our Starr Academy School on March 4. During the ceremony, he sat on stage next to the podium where, for the next hour, his Rawhide crew shared stories and words of encouragement about his future. Months ago, his future looked a lot different than it did when he first arrived at Rawhide on November 2018.

Back home, Tyler had accumulated fines for poor choices he’d made. To help pay for them, he took a third-shift job. But after getting caught stealing another car, the court decided to send Tyler to Rawhide for a second chance, in hope that he would alter his trajectory.

“Coming to Rawhide has helped me change my life around by learning from my mistakes, paying off my debt, and now graduating,” he said.

Starr Academy academic instructors helped Tyler navigate and recover his missing school credits, which allowed him graduate.

Tyler was also part of the Rawhide Work Experience Program where he helped fix vehicles in the Pennau Prep Center car shop. It was such an inspiring program that when he leaves Rawhide, he plans to attend college to become a mechanic.

“It’s feels great knowing I graduated,” Tyler said. “Three years ago, I was told that I was going to be a ‘super senior.’ If not, then I was going to have to go through six years of high school.”

The graduation ceremony took place in the auditorium and was filled with Tyler’s family, friends, and the “Rawhide Village” (e.g., academic instructors, house parents, youth care workers, therapists, etc.).

Before receiving his diploma, Principal and Director of Education Steve Masseth asked Tyler to close his eyes so the audience could cheer for him as a reminder of how much louder his support

mechanic school

system is than all the noise from life’s obstacles.

Delicious snacks, sherbet punch, cake, and lots of conversation followed the unique and emotional moment. It was a room filled with one, big, proud, extended family coming together to support a bright future!

“This place is temporary,” Tyler said in his graduation speech. “It may not be home, but it’s as close to home as you’re gonna get.”

In case you missed it, here is a recap of the quotes from Tyler’s support system:

  • “When he served us our fish at the Fish Fry Dinner last summer, I remember thinking, who is this polite, mature, young man?” – Steve Masseth (Principal)
  • “What really sticks out is Tyler’s persistence, his willingness to stick with it.” – Jim Watters (Case Manager)
  • “It’s been difficult, but if it wasn’t, it wouldn’t have been worth it. Don’t you ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER give up. You’re a scarred warrior now and forever have a place at Rawhide.” – Al Rooths (House Parent)
  • “He was dependable and always doing what needed to be done. He stays in his lane and doesn’t escalate situations.” – Josh Matthews (Youth Care Worker)
  • “Now he deals with difficulties with more grace and maturity. Life isn’t going to be easy, but keep going.” – Jeff Steffen (Therapist)
  • “He is an outstanding worker, and I truly believe he has a bright future ahead.” – Jesse Abbey (Vehicle Program)
  • “You are competitive – a fighter. You set goals. You are not shy and are smart as can be. When you leave, you will be missed.” – Alan Loux (President and CEO)
  • “I always said that if Tyler graduates, I will take him out for steak dinner. Well, tomorrow, now we can.” – Rhonda (Former House Parent)
  • “I saw you come to Rawhide as a plant, and now you’re leaving as a tree.” – Waleska Billups (Former House Parent)
  • “I am so happy and proud of you. Welcome to the next chapter in your life.” – Tyler’s Mom

On behalf of all Rawhide staff, we want to say one last big, “Congratulations, Tyler!”
We are so proud of how far you have come on this journey. We’ll continue to pray for your happiness and well-being. May you have a safe and healthy transition back home.


Teachers and student

Tyler’s support system poses with him at his graduation ceremony at Rawhide’s Starr Academy School.


Mechanic school

Tyler and Auto Technician Jesse Abbey inspect a car at the Rawhide Pennau Prep Center.


Graduate Diploma

Principal Steve Masseth shakes hands with Tyler as he receives his high school diploma from Starr Academy School.