On the day after graduation, I went into some of the units at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar to congratulate some of the kids I did not have a chance to speak with during the June 29 ceremony.When I asked one of the kids about his dad, he said, “My dad has no part in my life since I was three. He is a ‘lifer’ and at least I’m going to get a date to get released.”His mom was sitting next to him and told how the boy’s father had recently been incarcerated at County jail for stabbing his “cellie” to death.I looked at this kid making it to graduation with all the wounds of growing up and asked him what he has learned from his father’s experience. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “I don’t feel anything.”I have heard my fair share of stories like this, but somehow the juxtaposition between a son trying to do something with his life and then saying this about his father, who continues with a lifestyle of death, is disheartening. I ask myself, “How do these kids live with such scars?”The day before graduation, I sat there very close to where the 24 kids graduated. They were receiving attention that they have never gotten anywhere else for achieving something in their lives.I listened to Miguel, who was the student of the year. I know his story. A smart kid who has felt he has never excelled in anything, on this day he felt privileged.Never did these kids think they would actually make it to graduation from high school and receive a diploma, but when Miguel received his diploma it was powerful. I saw in front of me a kid who has already been found guilty and faces five life sentences.The same week as the U.S. Supreme Court declared that teenagers are different than adults, and that not taking this in account is wrong and illegal, Miguel, who addressed the audience during the ceremony, said joyfully, “Graduation is a day of hope!”The other kid who I visited on this same Saturday sat there with his mother. I had to get a box of Kleenex because they were both crying so profusely. I prayed with them. After a while it seemed like there were rivers and rivers of tears flowing onto the table. Every kid who was handed a diploma had received wounds growing up. Before I left this mother and son, I took out the oil and put it on their hands, praying for the healing of the hurts they were carrying within.When I got back to the chaplain's office, I checked an article with news of recently graduated students from different Catholic high schools heading to different universities, many of them very prestigious schools. A great accomplishment.Some of them are our future leaders who will find themselves in places of power and privilege. I pray that these future leaders, who are exactly the same age of the kids with bleeding wounds from growing up in violence-filled jungles, do not let their achievements separate them from those who still struggle just to survive.I prayed that these future Catholic leaders will not see this great opportunity for education as upward mobility, but that their Catholic education will set them apart to be able to see the wounds in kids who are still capable of receiving diplomas despite being told they will spend the rest of their lives in prison, where they will most likely die.I looked at the faces of so many talented, gifted youth graduating at Barry J. Nidorf, and found the connection with the Catholic graduates.To be young is to have dreams, it is to make mistakes. And it is to see a long road of opportunities in front of you.Jesuit Father Mike Kennedy is co-chaplain at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall and the founder and executive director of the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative (www.jrji.org), a nonprofit that promotes healing for incarcerated juveniles and their families, and for victims and their families. He advocates for the approval of SB9, a proposed bill to review cases of juveniles serving life in prison without parole.{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/0706/kennedy/{/gallery}