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MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS, Manhattan (PIX11) — A program has helped hundreds of women from New York City get second chances and reach their academic goals. Friday, it was graduation for nine special students.

Over 30 years ago, Hope Sanders’ life was completely different: she was a 16-year-old girl in prison. Now, Sanders is preparing to walk across a stage and accept her bachelor’s degree diploma, with honors, in social work. She’s headed to Columbia University to pursue her master’s, also in social work.

Sanders credits a non-profit organization called College & Community Fellowship for helping her, and hundreds of others like her, overcome barriers that come with being formerly incarcerated. The program allows them to earn their degrees and turn their lives around.

For over 20 years, the program has also focused on job placement and internships. Sanders said she hopes to pay it forward and fight for women just like her to have access to higher education.

If you want more information about these programs or if you want to support the program visit or text CCF to 44-321.