Nearly 50 recovering from Chicago violence, crime receive their diplomas

It was a significant accomplishment for nearly 50 Chicago graduates, overcoming life challenges or bad mistakes that set them back.

"I ain’t never think this was gonna be possible. I feel great," said graduate Lorenzo Taylor.

Xavier Patton, one of the program's leaders, said at one point most of the young adults were considered the worst of the worst.

With cheers from their teachers and coaches, 46 men and women crossed the stage and received their high school diploma on Thursday. The drive-thru style graduation took place outside the South Shore Cultural Center on the South Side.

Graduates participated in a program led by various violence prevention groups on the city's West and South sides.


CRED Founder Arne Duncan said the trauma the graduates faced is unimaginable.

"Just the perseverance, tenacity, hard work — it’s beyond moving," Duncan said.

Graduate Darren Barksdale said he was motivated and felt loved as program staff cheered them on.

Cynthia Oliphant works for one of the programs and crossed the stage as well. She witnessed her mom receive a high school diploma when she was 47.

"I want everyone to know, if she can do it, I can too. I’m 62-years-old and not ashamed to admit it. By the grace of God I made it," Oliphant said.

More than half of the participants are now headed to college, and they are looking forward to even more success.

"I’ve been shot and been through it all, but made it," Taylor said.