DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Call it a “graduation to life.” On Friday 35 residents of a Dallas homeless shelter celebrated a launch to self-sufficiency.

The New Life Recovery Program is helping people change their lives…one choice at a time.

When you enter the room you see people who look like typical graduates. The individuals are dressed in caps and gowns and have the adoration of a crowd full enthusiastic cheerleaders.

But on this Friday there are a range of unique stories behind the smiles and tears. The experiences make the graduation more than just a milestone.

(credit: CBSDFW.COM)

(credit: CBSDFW.COM)

One graduate lifted up words of faith and praise. “Oh victory in Jesus, my Savior forever.”

The men and women completing the Overcomers Program through the Dallas Life Foundation are also marking a major turnaround in their lives.

“These folks used to be homeless,” explained Bob Sweeney, the executive director of Dallas Life. But Sweeney said, “Not anymore… they are working, [have] apartments, [and are] back with their families.”

The 10-month Overcomers Program helps homeless people, who want to get back to work, overcome drug and alcohol issues. It also addresses anger, relationship, and financial issues that may be holding them back.

Willie T. Straghton Jr. is a more mature graduate. “At my age, being able to accomplish something… go to class at 54 years old,” he said with humbly.

Straghton had nowhere else to go when he came to Dallas Life. He says the long-term recovery program showed him step-by-step how to make better choices. He explained it plainly. “It’s about being obedient and doing what they say.”

Dallas Life has helped 50 men and women this year alone. Sweeney said the credit goes to the participants. “They’re doing the right thing. We’re so proud of them.”

Friday’s class 35 is the largest ever for the program.

One graduate had a public family message. “I just want to say one thing to my mom and little sister — I’m finally in a cap and gown.”

On this day there were 35 graduates, and the people who love them, celebrating a whole new future together.

Officials with the Dallas Life Foundation say their graduation rate is consistently higher than most homeless rehabilitation programs in North Texas and throughout the United States.

Click here to find out more about Dallas Life or to volunteer.

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