HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Dozens of at-risk teenagers from across Mississippi received a new chance at life thanks to the Mississippi National Guard's Youth ChalleNGe Program.
For 22 weeks, these young men and women learned about discipline and how to become productive citizens in the community.
Graduate Dalton Armstrong said he couldn't believe the program was over.
"It really hadn't hit me yet. It hit me a little bit, a little bit," Armstrong said.
Over 200 cadets graduated in the programs 44th class and received diplomas during the commencement ceremony at the Forrest County Multi-Purpose Facility.
"I got my education, discipline and the respect from my parents that I always wanted," said Cadet Adann Awad.
However, it wasn't easy. For almost six months the cadets learned about discipline and academics at Camp Shelby.
"I like to think that when they get to me I have six months to polish them up and turn them into a diamond," said Youth ChalleNGe Director William King.
This transformation even surprised the cadets and inspired them to serve in the armed forces.
"I never thought about joining the military, but after talking to all the military personnel it just changed me," Awad said.
King said his favorite part is watching the cadets grow and live successful lives after they graduate.
"They are success stories they are building their own book right now and each chapter is going to be great," King said.
More than 8,400 cadets have graduated from Youth ChalleNGe in the last 20 years.