Graduation 2020

COVID-19 Could not lock out Class of 2020

Written by: Santiago Madrigal (Alumni 2017)

Operation New Hope (ONH) celebrates a decade of high school graduation ceremonies with John Muir Charter Schools. Number ten will be remembered as the year of COVID-19, the typical graduation ceremony hosted at San Bernardino Valley College’s historic theater was modified to meet the needs of “social distance” requirements. ONH staff coordinated a drive through ceremony for the class of 2020.


ONH was established in 1980 as a means of preparing ‘disconnected youth’ for the realities of adulthood. In 2009, Operation New Hope received critical funding from the San Bernardino County Workforce Development Board through the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). That funding allowed the program to partner with John Muir Charter Schools. The partnership with John Muir Charter Schools provides ONH students with a high school education that is tailored to the student’s needs. The partnership provides students with small class sizes and a family-like atmosphere that teaches the importance of life, job and leadership skills.

‘Disconnected youth’ or ‘opportunity youth,’ are youth who are ages 18 – 24 years old who did not graduate from high school or working. Research shows ‘disconnected youth’ are more likely to experience poor health, lower incomes, unemployment, and or incarceration as adults. Russell Degnan, CEO stated “It is crucial for students to receive their high school diploma. Having their diploma allows them to gain employment or enroll in a secondary institution.”

The class of 2020 produced 17 high school graduates. Prior to the overnight COVID-19 changes to classroom instruction we had expected 28 students to graduate, Degnan said. Unfortunately many students struggled with the online learning platform. Operation New Hope runs 2 Youth Opportunity Center’s in San Bernardino County, partnering with John Muir Charter Schools and Innovation High School to provide youth with a state accredited (WASC) high school diploma. 429 youth have received their high school diploma through ONH’s Youth Opportunity Center’s since 2010.

“We provide our students with soft skill sets that make them attractive to potential employers,” Degnan explained. “They receive training on job readiness, financial literacy, leadership, anger management, substance abuse, and everything in between.” To prepare their students for the realities of life, youth complete life skills workshops and workforce workshops building a career portfolio, learning the value of work ethics, earning vocational certificates, and completing work experience projects. “Each element of our program is critical to building healthy young men and women,” Degnan said.

ONH Youth Opportunity Center’s are located in downtown San Bernardino and Rancho Cucamonga. Programs offer year round enrollment and year round programming. The schools provide summer school in the month of July, to learn more or to enroll visit their website or contact the San Bernardino center at 909.380.0641 or the Rancho Cucamonga center at 909.527.3894