HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Dozens of former high school dropouts are now prepared to successfully enter the workforce or continue their education, after graduating from the National Guard's Youth Challenge Program Saturday.
Cadets from across Mississippi took home diplomas at the graduation of Class 45 of the Challenge Academy at the Forrest County Multi-Purpose Facility.
Youth Challenge is a 22-week, military style program of academics and physical training, which gives students a second chance at completing their education.
It was a special time for cadets and for the program's long-time deputy commander, Lt. Col. Rickey Hosey, who is retiring.
"I found out about this program and I came here and was able to accomplish things and now, I'm actually going to school and probably going to join the Army and it's just given me so much I wouldn't have had at home," said graduate Ashley Brewer.
"I came from slinging dope to being a person with a high school diploma, so It really changed my life," said Darick Stoudemire, a graduate from Jackson.
"I've been here since the program started, 22 and-a-half years ago and almost 9,000 young men and women have graduated from the program," said Hosey. "I tell you what, I've just been blessed, God has blessed me to be a part of this program."
211 cadets graduated Saturday.