PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Community College of Philadelphia is recognizing a group of special students for their perseverance in their studies.

These are not traditional college students.

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They’re men who were formerly behind bars and now are taking part in the college’s re-entry support program.

Mayor-elect Jim Kenney, who attended ceremonies recognizing those who have completed their first semester of classes, says it’s about dignity.

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“We want to make sure that they understand that we value them. We value them as human beings, we value them as citizens,” Kenney said. “And, we want to be there to help them at every step of the way in their effort to come back into society, be productive members of society, pay taxes, raise families.”

Tara Timberman, who coordinates the program for the college, says more than a dozen students were recognized. She says the message is simple: You’re not alone.

“We want them to see that there’s a whole community out there in Philadelphia that supports the work they’re doing and we want them to continue with us. We want them to not give up hope,” Timberman said.

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Some of the program’s graduates, who went on to earn bachelor’s degrees and embark on careers, came back to CCP to show the former inmates there is a path of possibilities and success.