CHATTANOOGA, TN (WDEF-TV) - It was graduation day for a hundred young people who took part in a Summer Work program.
That would be notable in itself..but these teens were considered "at-risk".
It was a life changing experience for some.
BROOKE CRANFILL, DAYTON, TN. "I've let a lot of people know that this program really is awesome..because not a lot of people know about it."
Brooke Cranfill from Rhea county was typical of the 100 or so young people who ended up in the "at-risk" program run by the Southeast Tennessee Development District.
She says it changed her life.
BROOKE CRANFILL "I had problems in school and staying in school, and getting in trouble outside of school ..so they wanted to make sure I was in a program to help me."
Brooke graduated along with teens from 9 counties.
They had paid jobs for 6 weeks, so they also got a check along with a certificate.
DeJuan Scott was so successful in the program he is now in the Chattanooga Ambassadors program. He doesn't strike you as a youth at rick.
DEJUAN SCOTT, CHATTANOOGA "When I was a youth..when I was pretty young I didn't think I was going to make it....I thought I was going to be either dead or in jail."
Al Duncan of Atlanta is an award-winning youth advocate. He was the guest speaker for the event at the Brainerd BX. He talked about developing the soft skills that employers expect---simple things like saying "thank you" and the correct way to shake hands. .
"...handshake...let's do it...Oh, my God....what's going on here?"
AL DUNCAN, YOUTH ADVOCATE "When we were growing up a lot of that was just called life skills.....things we got naturally...and some kind of way we got busyness..you know two parents working and a lot of things falling by the wayside ..Some of that is missing now."
AUTUMN DERRICK, PROGRAM COORDINATOR, WORK EXPERIENCE PROGRAM (IN:17:50)"A lot of them come to us without hope and we do see a lot of lives changed...so its very rewarding."
This is the 3rd year for the "At-Risk" program.
The Tennessee Career Center is using funding from the federal Workforce Investment Act.