CHICAGO — The Chicago CRED Program held a drive-thru graduation ceremony Thursday afternoon for those who are recovering from lives of crime and violence.
Seven years ago, Dentrell Jelks lost his mother Jacqueline. On Thursday, he carried her picture with him as he received his high school diploma.
“It feels amazing,” he said. “Best feeling in the world right now.”
Jelks is one of 46 graduates of the Chicago CRED program, through Penn Foster High School. The drive-thru ceremony was held Thursday at the South Shore Cultural Center.
Several violence prevention groups provide street outreach to recruit. On top of a diploma, they receive trauma support management, life coaching and help finding a job or enrolling in college.
“We had a young man come across the stage and he just started walking again,” staff member Steve Gates said. “He’d been shot multiple times, but he stayed focused. He kept working on his HS diploma and his rehab and was able to walk across the stage today.”
The goal of the program is to reduce gun violence by 20 percent annually over the next five years.
Jelks said he is doing his part to better himself and make his mother proud.
“She would feel amazing, she would be crying jumping,” aunt Erma Jelks said. “I’m happy for him, I’m happy for her.”
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The CRED program started in 2016 and there are 500 students enrolled. All tuition is free and covered by private funding and grants.