LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - For more than a dozen young men and women today marked the beginning of a brand new chapter in their lives as they graduated the Goodwill YouthBuild program in Lufkin.
The East Texas News was there to see these youth celebrate this incredible accomplishment and for many of them walk across the stage for the very first time.
Roars of excitement and applause resonated through Angelina College today as 22 men and women left their troubled past behind and walked forward into their future.
"Today means a lot to me," said program graduate, Marquis Edwards. "I came a long way from a lot of stuff that I've been through. Everybody has problems and goes through trials and tribulations but I'm going to come out on top."
One by one these graduates were recognized for their educational and on-the-job training accomplishments.
"My son is going to see his mommy walk across the stage completing something I thought I could never complete," said one of two females graduating the program, Erica Ross.
"I'm graduating finally. You know it's been a long time coming. It's been a long time for things to come," said Edwards.
Just a year ago Goodwill of Lufkin created Pineywoods YouthBuild, a program that does not define youth by their mistakes but instead is dedicated to giving them a second chance
"It's opened up a lot of doors, a lot of opportunities for me to learn new things. keeping me out of trouble," said Jahvincent Crain.
"I really don't think I'd be here today if it wasn't for Goodwill and YouthBuild," said Edwards. "I mean they helped me out a lot and get me through a lot of tough times."
More than anything the first graduating YouthBuild class wants to inspire others to take advantage of this opportunity.
"I just want to say that there's people out there that want to help and there's people out there that as long as you put fourth the effort to go out there and do it and make stuff happen just don't sit there and wait you gotta go get it," said Edwards.
"Don't be scared to try new things," said Crain. "It could change your life."
"There are opportunities for everybody and YouthBuild is the place to be and it gives you hope and belief," said Ross.
The next class of YouthBuild is currently accepting applications through the end of January.
Some general requirements for eligibility:
- Must be 18-24
- Working toward or needed GED (however they do accept applicants that already have a GED or high school diploma)
- Interested in construction education
- Youth who are on probation and need an advocate
For more information and to apply: http://lufkingoodwill.org/youth-programs/