Special Graduation Ceremony Is Putting Lives Back On Track

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It may seem a little late in the year for a graduation but for five newly-minted high school diploma recipients, everything was perfect.

The five are graduates of an innovative program to give first time drug offenders a second chance.

As graduates walked in to R. Kelly’s “World’s Greatest,” an unconventional processional for an unconventional graduation. But parents and friends gathered to watch the graduates with the traditional pride and emotion.

“I’m excited and I’m honored that my daughter’s graduating Wednesday. She’s overcome a lot of obstacles and barriers and to see her today. I’m blessed. I’m overwhelmed,” said Elizabeth Jones.

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Her daughter Marisol Mas was class speaker, and explained what her diploma meant to her.

“I can pursue my career and I can also tell my daughter Navea, when she gets older, no matter how hard things get, you can do it,” said Mas.

The program, called The Choice is Yours or TCY, gives first time offenders the chance to stay out of jail, and get their record expunged, while they work and earn a diploma.

The partners in the program, JEVS Human Services, Penn Foster High School, the district attorney’s and public defender’s offices, say it has an 85 percent completion rate, saving money on incarceration and creating productive citizens instead of repeat offenders.

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