GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - They were once high school drop-outs, unemployed, with no job skills. Now, they're looking forward to joining the workforce or going to college. On Friday, 82 students overcame tremendous challenges to graduate from the Gulfport Job Corps.
"We made it! We made it!" a young man shouted after he put on his cap and gown.
Graduation day: The excitement, the nerves, even some tears. It was an emotional time for a group young men and women who have faced major obstacles in their lives. Robert Albasini was homeless and had no job.
"I felt worthless, like I wasn't going to amount to anything and I just wanted to make something of myself," said Albasini.
Robert enrolled in the Gulfport Job Corps. The program offers free job training to at-risk students, ages 16 to 24, in electrical, medical office support, and certified nursing assistant. Many students came from low-income families. Some dropped out of school.
"I had some emotional problems going on and I was doing bad in school, so I left school and started getting my GED, but it didn't work out," said Treanna Williams.
Now, they've achieved their goals by receiving a high school diploma or GED, and a certificate for completing a skill. Robert has already found a job.
"I got hired on at Ingalls and I started that job last week, and I'm working on getting my own vehicle and my own place now," said Robert. "I feel great. I feel blessed."
Rep. Sonya Williams-Barnes of Gulfport served as the commencement speaker. She told the students it's time to give back.
"They're my inspiration, because of the challenges that they have and they have struggled through those challenges and overcome those hurdles and they are where they are today," she said.
The graduates are proud of their accomplishments and grateful for this second chance.
"I have a better attitude and I feel successful in life now. I appreciate it a lot. They have helped me physically, emotionally," said Treanna.
Two of the summer graduates have apprenticeships at Ingalls Shipbuilding. And another student has joined AmeriCorps in California.