EBENSBURG - Speaking from the heart and without notes, John Ribblet told the audience at the Cambria County Day Reporting Center graduation ceremony he initially thought the program was a joke that he could easily pass through before returning to his old ways.
But his views quickly changed when he first attended classes and participated in the center's various programs, Ribblet said.
"If it wasn't for the day reporting center program, I don't know where I'd be right now," Ribblet said. "Probably back in the gutter somewhere."
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Cambria County Day Reporting Center graduate Jimmy Claar of Johnstown talks about his experience during the transition ceremony on Monday afternoon at the Cambria Township facility.
Ribblet was one of 27 graduates honored during a ceremony Monday afternoon at the day reporting center.
The center opened in May 2012 for non-violent criminals and low-risk offenders to report for classes and therapy in place of prison sentences. Monday's ceremony was the first graduating class to complete the program, which lasts for about six to eight months depending on each individual's court ordered appointment.
"There were good days and bad days," Stacy Miller, day reporting center director, told the graduates. "Remember, this is the normal rhythm of life."
Miller said the graduates were always welcomed at the center for help with problems or emotional support, or just to use the center's computers to type up their resumes.
Ribblet was one of the graduates to speak during the ceremony. The majority of his classmates, as well as the staff, treated him with professionalism and respect, he said.
"The program really did change my life," Ribblet said.
Jimmy Claar told the audience he thought the day reporting center would be his "get out of jail free card" after being released from prison.
But Claar began participating in the program and never missed a single class.
"I impressed myself," he said with a smile, which drew laughs from the crowd.
Claar said the program helped him turn his life around for the better.
"Wow, I can change. I never thought I could," Claar said.
His remarks drew some laughs from his fellow graduates, who Claar looked to with a smile.
"I'm nervous, guys," he said, which drew laughs from his friends and the crowd.
Once the graduates had their names read and were presented with their plaques and certificates of completion, Ribblet again stood up to speak.
Ribblet thanked his classmates for their respect and congratulated them on their success with the program.
Even though the offenders were court-ordered to the program, about 90 percent of the individuals took the program seriously, Ribblet said.
Ribblet gave credit to his fellow graduates and said hopefully all of their problems would be in the past.
Various county officials attended the graduation ceremony. And the entire staff of the day reporting center was happy to see the 27 students graduate from the program, Miller said.
"So proud of them," Miller said.
Mirror Staff Writer Zach Geiger is at 946-7535.