Echo Glen celebrates 50 years of helping convicted kids turn their lives around

A school in Snoqualmie celebrates 50 years, but it's not just any school. It's the last chance for convicted children to avoid becoming a prison statistic.

Former students went back to Echo Glen Children's Center on Wednesday -- to say "thank you" to a place that changed their lives.

"It was a struggle to wake up, it was a struggle to go to sleep, it was a struggle to wonder, what is my purpose here," said former juvenile offender Elena Latham. "If it wasn't for Echo Glen I hate to say it but I would probably still be incarcerated."

This is the last stop for many people like Latham before life derails into the prison system. At 14 years old, she was a convicted felon growing into the person she was told to become.

"I remember first coming to this place and being so angry, and within an hour being put into a jumpsuit because I was so out of control," Latham said.

She needed to learn to love -- and said she found it along with 100 other teens at Echo Glen.

"Growing up all my life being told I am a bad person, you have to defend for yourself when you come here, and you have these staff here to support you and tell you that you are a good person," Latham said.

"These aren't throwaway kids, these kids have lots of potential."

Marybeth Queral oversees Washington's Juvenile Rehabilitation Program. She says this place gives kids the opportunity to let go of their past.

"You don't see them as their crime, but you see them as a young person who has so much potential when given that support and a safe and stable environment," Queral said.

She says you get to see kids turn back into kids, get excited about good grades, high-five, smile.

"It's about kids finding themselves and finding what really matters, and helping them realize they can live in the community as a successful person as a person that can be like everybody else."

Latham stayed for several years, earned her high school diploma, graduated and was released from Echo Glen.

Now the 28-year-old woman is enrolled at the University of Washington studying criminology.

"I am so thankful for this place."