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Students Get a New Lease on Life

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CLINTON — Hundreds of kids drop out of school every year in North Carolina. Whilemost people give up hope of those kids having a bright future, one NorthCarolina program challenges dropouts to succeed.

For the last three years, a program called Tarheel ChalleNGe (The "NG"symbolizes the National Guard's role in the program.) has helped highschool dropouts to turn their lives around. On Friday, the 74 students enrolled in the program gathered in Clinton to get their diplomas andto celebrate their new outlook on life.

Through the tear-filled eyes of Gale Hughes, the images of her only childreceiving a high school diploma were a dream come true.

The 22-week program combines boot camp and high school. Since 1994, themajority of the program's graduates have gone to college or taken full-time jobs.

But at the beginning of this year, organizers feared that this might bethe program's last year -- Tarheel ChalleNGe's budget was being cut inhalf. However, for graduates like Joe Webb, the program obtained fundingfor the next five years. It was a rocky road for Webb, but Friday'sceremony was worth the long journey.

Anyone who might be interested in enrolling in Tarheel ChalleNGe can call1-800-573-9966 for an application. This year the program has receivedmore than 200 applications from prospective students. More people haveapplied this year than ever before.

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