FORREST COUNTY, Miss. (WDAM) - One-hundred-sixty-nine cadets walked the stage Saturday, officially graduating from the Camp Shelby Youth Challenge Academy.
"I needed to straighten myself out,” said graduate Stephen Davis. “I knew that I needed to straighten myself out. I told my parents this is probably my best option. If I hadn’t of come here, there’s no telling where I would be right now.”
The YCA is a 22-week program that strives to influence and help at-risk youth, teaching them values and life skills through education and self-discipline.
"They teach you life coping skills, academic excellence, job skills training, you can go into trades, college, all of that stuff,” said graduate Colin Langely. “It’s a great program.”
"It’s hard, but as you start picking up and going through it, as the weeks go by, it gets easier and easier,” said graduate Christopher Bonilla.
This was the 50th class to graduate since the academy’s start 25 years ago.
Graduates said it is an honor to be part of this class.
"It feels great to graduate a year early,” said graduate Shane Davey. “To have my GED and high school diploma all on the first try. To graduate being OSHA certified, honestly, it’s easier than a traditional school.”
"It feels so good,” said Bonilla. “It feels like the best thing in the world, to be honest.”
"Amazing,” said Davis. “I’m so ready to go home. I live pretty far away, so it feels great to be able to go home.”
Those that completed this program earned their GED and some receive scholarships to be used for higher levels of education.