At-risk teens graduate from outreach center in Richmond

At-risk teens graduate from outreach center in Richmond
Student Outreach Involvement Center

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Five students are earning their high school diploma, thanks to a non-profit organization dedicated to giving at-risk youth a second chance at life.

It has been a difficult road for Zachary Gill, who is graduating from high school.

"At the beginning of the school year, this school year, and I had straight F's," said Gill.

But just as Zachary was on the brink of dropping out of high school entirely, he reached a breaking point.

"I just got to a point in my life - I was almost 18. I'm 18 now. I just got to thinking like, 'do I really want this for myself?' " said Gill, who is a part of the Student Outreach Involvement Center.

With the help of family and friends, he received his second chance inside the classrooms of the Outreach Involvement Center...

"The students that we have, they came to us with a lot of challenges - just fighting at school, just simply not going to school, a lot of behaviors at home, on probation. So within this last year, they've become successful," said Lisa Smith-Hicks, executive director of the Student Outreach Involvement Center.

In this non-profit program, students who might not otherwise graduate are given the tools to succeed.  Everything from notebooks, to laptops, and mentors, dedicated to their success.

"I came here, and I don't know! I just focused. It was just that point," said Gill.

Zachary's not the only one. Saturday night, five students are being honored at the fourth annual benefit dinner, where these students will be presented with their hard-earned diploma.

"They do the best they can to make you a better person," said LaMonte Jones, who received a diploma on Saturday.

Graduating high school is not the final stop for these students.

"I was thinking about going to college for two-years for HVAC," said Jones. "It's like nothing stopping you. It's like you want good for yourself and they do too."

With diplomas of their own, these students are motivated to continue to pave better lives for themselves.

"It's been a long road. These students felt everybody gave up on them, but I'm so proud of them tonight. I'm so proud of them because they didn't give up on themselves" said Smith-Hicks.

"This program I'm trying to tell you - it's the best program," said Gill.

Click here if you know a teen that would be a good candidate for the Outreach Involvement Center, or if you think you can help their efforts.

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