There’s a feeling of gratefulness from the newest graduating class of the Peoria County jail’s Job Partnership Re-Entry program.

The 7 week program teaches students skills, they’ll need in the future, with the hopes of preparing them to be productive members of society and helping them land a job.

“I’ve noticed a lot of growth within myself, its opened doors for a lot of self awareness,” said Antwaun Alexander, who was one of the many graduates. “It got me back in tune with my spiritual side and it made me wanna be more motivated within myself.”

Only 22 students out of more than 80 applicants were chosen for this rigorous class, with only 14 of them making it to graduation.

“It was a hard program to graduate, it wasn’t a cake walk, there was a lot of homework to do,” said Peoria County Sheriff Brian Asbell.

But this was a life changing experience for those that did graduate.

Jobs Partnership Executive Director, Cheryl Parks says, “It’s so exciting because the very first day everyone is guarded, but over the weeks you can see that the material we’re giving them is changing them.”

Many described this as a second chance for these students behind bars to turn their lives around.

Parks continued, “It’s giving the men hope, hope that you do not have to return to the way of life you had on the outside nor do you have to return to the Peoria County Jail.”

After the graduation concluded Sheriff Asbell made it clear to how proud is was of all 14 of the graduates. Asbell continued to say if they handle their business, when they are finished with their sentence they can use him as a reference for employment.