HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Dozens of former high school drop-outs from across Mississippi have gotten a new start in life, thanks to the Mississippi National Guard's Youth Challenge Program. Saturday, 208 cadets graduated from Class 40 of Youth Challenge during a ceremony at the Forrest County Multi-Purpose Center.
Youth Challenge is a 22-week, military-based training and education program for at-risk youth ages 16-18 which gives them a second chance at getting a high school education.
It began at Camp Shelby in 1994.
"I'm so excited about graduating," said Brenden Ramsey, a graduate from Oak Grove. "I know I did well and I feel great about the program," he said.
"I feel very proud of myself and very proud of everybody else and very confident in everything we're going to do afterwards," said Annisha Johnson, a graduate from Natchez.
"I never thought I could actually do this," said Josee' Moss, a graduate from Taylorsville. "I've always been told that I would never be able to get a high school diploma and I am today," she said.
Over the last 20 years, a total of 7,886 cadets in Mississippi have graduated from Youth Challenge.
About 30 other states have similar programs.