At risk youths graduate culinary school - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

At risk youths graduate culinary school

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GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

A culinary program that trains at risk young people was the scene of a very special graduation ceremony Wednesday night. Café Climb had its inaugural graduation.

It's been 7 long months, but they did it.

"I feel like since I've been in this program I can do anything. It broadens your horizons," said graduate Demetrius Kennard.

As young men and women like Kennard and Craig Dean walked across stage with bright smiles, they said the journey hasn't been easy.

"Sadly I was in jail. I got out. This was my only chance and I took it and they brought me a long way. I'm so happy," said Salutatorian Craig Dean.

Dean said if not for Café Climb, his life would be different.

"Sadly, I'd probably be in jail. To tell you the truth, I was on the wrong path," said Dean.

That's what Café Climb sought to do when it began its program this year.

"There is a real need for a trained work force as well as livable paid employment. I think that in order to make an impact on those vulnerable disenfranchised in need, we have to provide them access to opportunities to be successful," said Chief Executive Officer Lori West.

West said 33 percent of South Mississippi's economy is made up of the hospitality industry. Café Climb seeks to provide access to that industry, giving its students a second chance.

"Because of this place, I'm a lot better," said Kennard.

"Man, thanks for giving us a try, just giving us a try, man. Everybody deserves a second chance," said Dean.

As students left their legacy, thanks to Café Climb, they're starting on a path of limitless opportunity.

Café Climb is located in downtown Gulfport on 30th Avenue. Not only is it a restaurant, but soon they will be expanding their building so they can cater more in house events.

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