FORT MYERS, Fl. - Beating the odds. That's what some 'at-risk' teens are doing thanks to a program called, Destination: Graduation. It's through the local organization, Southwest Florida Works.
Destination: Graduation started back in 2010 at two high schools and has helped about 60 students graduate. This year the program is expanding to seven high schools. The members of the class of 20-12 WINK News spoke with say it's changed their lives.
"Work work work, study study study..." says JT Carter.
It's Carter's new motto, and putting it to work has paid off.
"A lot of people want to be where I'm at, they see the success that I've had," he says.
Making money from a summer job at the Harry Chapin Food Bank and graduating high school. Carter is one of 53 at-risk youth in the community that Destination: Graduation has helped, including recent Dunbar grad, Johntavia Jackson.
"Without this program I personally don't think I'd be doing anything with my life," Jackson says.
Destination: Graduation takes students through workshops to help get their grades up, learn job skills, and even sets them up with employment. This summer, Jackson worked at the Imaginarium.
"Just because I'm an African American male doesn't mean I can't go far. And I'm going to go far," Jackson adds.
Jackson says the recent violence that's torn through his community has given him even more motivation to ensure he's giving himself a chance.
"One family was close to me and just seeing how his mom cried that night she found out her son was dead... it's not worth it, it's so not worth it... the person who's dead would not like to see you how you are now... they want to see you do better," he adds.
For both these destination graduation grads, they're making moves.
"I'm not going to be lazy. I've gotten better at leadership," adds Carter.
"I found out how smart I was and I actually put it to use," Jackson adds.
In a few weeks, Jackson is starting classes at Florida Gulf Coast University where he's studying Hospitality and Tourism Management.
Carter says he's going to job corp in Jacksonville.