Judge Shawn LaGrua’s (J.D. ’87) “My Journey Matters” program, formerly known as “My Life Matters,” awarded its first scholarships to two graduates pursuing higher education. Albert Hambrick and Joi Pippins were awarded the Brooks and Anne LaGrua Scholarship on March 17 .
“I just wanted to tell ya’ll to keep pushing, you can overcome anything,” Hambrick said during the ceremony at the Fulton County Courthouse .
The scholarship is named after Judge LaGrua’s parents who were always serious about education. LaGrua’s husband and her siblings showed their gratitude at the ceremony.
“For a number of years, Chris, Brad, Kelly and I have wanted to find a way to say ‘thank you’ in honor of my mom and dad…,” LaGrua said. “[This scholarship] is to make sure others have the same chance at education, opportunities and a future like my mom and dad gave us.”
The “My Journey Matters” program requires participants to be in school or employed if they have graduated and to maintain a B average. Jarvis Davis, a graduate of program, became a freshman in high school at 19 years old, after serving two years in jail. He went to school day and night, and eventually graduated in 2013.
Davis recalled LaGrua holding him accountable for his actions and even attending his high school graduation. He recited a poem for LaGrua to express his appreciation.
“My chances of making it through anything were very slim,
if the coach gave me a ball, I could never put it in the rim
I was chasing dreams and no one else had faith in my team.
People told me that I couldn’t read and I would never succeed.
It was the judge that gave me hope and encouragement…”
Davis said LaGrua is like a mother figure to him and the program caused him to get out of his comfort zone.
Justin Berman is the president of the “My Journey Matters” program. It offers alternative sentencing for 16-to 29-year-old offenders who commit violent and semi-violent acts. The initiative involves the district attorney’s office, the public defender’s offices, the probation department and Judge LaGrua’s courtroom. The participants have a curfew and are subject to random drug testing.
The program provides resources and road maps to steer young offenders away from crimes to conduct productive lives. “I can’t tell you how impressed I am with each and everyone of you, [for] raising your hand and saying ‘I need help’,” said Berman, who credits his parents for encouraging him to make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate.