Chicago CRED hosts drive-thru graduation ceremony for people turning their lives around

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ByWill Jones via WLS logo
Thursday, August 18, 2022
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The graduates, 58 in total, participated in violence prevention programs run by the Chicago CRED organization.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Receiving a high school diploma is a milestone for anyone, but for some it is especially meaningful.

"Man, I just graduated. I made it. I push through," said graduate Rodney Bedenfield.

Chicago CRED hosted a drive-thru graduation ceremony Wednesday afternoon in the parking lot of the South Shore Culture Center.

The graduates, 58 in total, participated in violence prevention programs run by the organization.

Many of the graduates are beyond their high school years. They're recovering from trauma and gun violence. Some have been incarcerated.

"I actually just came home from doing five years in prison and I had lot planned for myself to do better," Bedenfield said.

The graduates drove in, walked out to a cheering crowd onto the red carpet, then to the stage to receive their diplomas.

"It is emotional. It is amazing. I can't be more proud of our young people and are staff who work so hard with them," said Chicago CRED founder Arne Duncan.

Duncan commended the graduates for committing to putting down the guns and healing their communities. The organization provides life coaches to guide them along the way, and that includes helping them further their education.

"I always say they are the solution to the problem, they are not the problem. We just have to walk with them, learn from them, empower them and allow them to lead us to a safer city," Duncan said.

The program helped put graduate Diego Perez on a different path.

"It is very important to give the option to people to know that there's programs that can help you out and you're not alone," he said.

After walking across the stage, the graduates are now turning their attention to new goals. With the support of their families, friends and communities they know this is just the beginning.

"Anything I set my mind to, I can achieve it," Perez said.