Big turnaround for Bijouís top graduate

       Bijou School graduate Justin Hardman received a $1,500 scholarship from District 11 and another for $500 from a school fund.

For his school photo, Justin Hardman displayed the $20 bill he won from security officer Dave Fisher for completing all his credits before spring break.
Westside Pioneer photo

       And then there's that 20-dollar bill.
       That's the award the 16-year-old particularly enjoyed. He even posed with it for his school photo. School security officer Dave Fisher had bet him that he couldn't finish all his credits before spring break. Justin proceeded to do so.
       But he already had plenty of incentive. "My motivation was to get done with high school at 16," he said. "My family members all were GEDs or drop-outs."
       Until recently, Justin wasn't doing much to change that trend. As a student at Mesa Ridge High School, he got in trouble with the law, resulting in a stint of a year and nine months at the Zebulon Pike Youth Services Center.
       It was there that he started thinking he needed a different course in life. "I did what I had to do to get out of juvenile corrections," he said.
       What led to his change? "Being away from my family," Justin replied, simply.
       He's enjoyed his nearly full year at Bijou, which is in its last year as a Westside alternative high school (it will become part of a grouping of alternative options at the former Wasson site in 2013-14). "Everyone was helpful," he said.
       Fisher might be the most pleased with Justin's progress, even if it cost him money. "What a turnaround!" exclaimed the officer, who had also organized an on-campus car show this spring that brought in the funds for the school's $500 scholarship.
       A committee of Bijou leaders decided that Justin deserved the award for being the top scholar in his 20-member graduating class.
       For the D-11 scholarship, funded by vending machine revenue, Justin was one of nine selected in the district, on the basis of "drive [and] perseverance" and "a desire to pursue a postsecondary education opportunity or college education at an accredited public institution."
       Justin came to Bijou in October, using its options to build up credits in a hurry.
       Now he's looking to start in the fall at Pikes Peak Community College. He'll be 17 by then (his birthday is in August). He's not sure of a major yet. "I'll try to do general classes and figure it out down the way," he said. "It'll be something in technology."
       In addition, he's got a job. He's been working at McDonald's since February. It's clear he takes pride in it. When asked if his store is the one on South Eighth Street, he immediately clarified that it's at Colorado and 30th. "You can put that in so people will know to come to my store, instead of the one at Eighth Street," he told the interviewer. "We're a franchise, they're corporate."

Westside Pioneer article