Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- Graduations usually mean a new beginning, the start of a new chapter in life, but for one group of graduates it's much more.
"I've been waiting on this for a while now, and I'm just so excited! It's like a dream come true," said Pamela Miller.
"I feel very excited, very excited happy about the opportunity that lies ahead," said James Israel. "Finally got a chance, while I'm down here to take care of my son."
Israel passed on a job in New York to move with his mother and son to South Carolina, but when he got here he realized finding work wasn't as easy as he thought. He ended up getting assistance from the state government through DSS.
But a new program changed that for him and other graduates. It's all through a partnership with the South Carolina Department of Social Services, Palmetto Development Group, Shaw Group and the Construction Training Center.
After completing a 16 week course many of the graduates are headed for positions with Shaw Group and a jump from welfare to work that DSS Director Lillian Koller calls a track to the middle class.
"These jobs they're getting after 16 weeks of training pays entry level $16.99 to $18.99, it's all full time work they are now journeymen, welders, carpenters," said Koller.
Through the program, DSS covered the cost for the graduates to train for jobs waiting for many when they finished.
Koller says there are already 20 other students going through the program.
Program Director James Solomon says it disproves the impression that people receiving government aid don't want to work.
"The great majority of these people are dedicated, committed, want to work, will commit themselves to training and will commit themselves to work. And that's what makes it all worth while," said Solomon.
"It's an opportunity to take care of my children, my family to prosper, I mean I just got so many things that I wanna do and this is the opportunity," said Miller.
These graduates are the first to complete the program.
Solomon says if you or someone you know receiving government assistance from the state is interested in the training program, he or she should contact their case worker for more information.