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.
A total of 206 cadets in Class 43 of the Challenge Academy received diplomas during a commencement ceremony at the Forrest County Multi-Purpose Facility Saturday.
Youth Challenge is a 22-week, military-style program of academics and discipline that gives drop-outs a second chance at getting an education.
"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity," said Codye Fuller, a Youth Challenge graduate from Silver Creek. "I'm so happy, I'm getting my diploma, I made it through 22 weeks."
"I've experienced a lot of things that I never thought I would experience," said J'Shon Perkins, another graduate from Clinton. "But, it's been quite a challenge, just like in the name Youth Challenge Academy and it's a wonderful experience to be a part of it."
A total of 8,422 cadets have graduated from the Youth Challenge Program in the last 20 years.