There were smiles, hugs, high-fives and even some tears, but on Tuesday, history was made for the Megiddo Dream Station of Graniteville when more than a dozen men and women graduated from its first-ever back-to-work program.


The Dream Station is a non-profit agency that was founded in May 2012 and began offering services in October. It offers education, job training and life skills classes to help people – many of whom have been out of work for years – become more self-sufficient and re-enter the workforce.


Tuesday’s graduation at First Baptist Church in Graniteville included a meal, a slideshow of photos from the first session and music. The graduates were presented with certificates for completing the program.


Some of the graduates will continue on to complete their General Educational Development. Many have already secured jobs in the workforce, which is why some graduates couldn’t attend Tuesday.


Eric Dowling, 35, hadn’t had steady work for more than four years before he came to the Dream Station.


“I have five children and a wife to support, and I don’t want a handout,” he said. “But I had lost hope that anyone would give me a chance.”


Dowling heard about the Dream Station on TV and wanted to check it out. He said his life hasn’t been the same since. He recently started work at Graniteville Speciality Fabrics.


“Ms. Kay (Benitez) told me God had a plan for my life and that my hope was in him,” Dowling said. “I started work last week, and I love it. It’s my responsibility to take care for my family. Now I can do that.”


The Dream Station’s six-week mandatory core curriculum consists of job training classes, which focus on soft skills, resumes, career plans and mock interviews, budget workshops, clothing care basics, inexpensive, nutritious meal planning, community service, on-the-job training and Bible study.


During the program, students take classes two days a week from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., according to Benitez. The men come to class on Mondays and Wednesdays and the women on Tuesdays and Thursdays.


Benitez said seeing the first group of students graduate was exciting and rewarding.


“I’ve seen all these young men and women really struggle,” she said. “They came from all kinds of different backgrounds. Most of them had not had any hope when they came and were grasping for something.”


Benitez said if someone is interested in enrolling in the program, they must first interview with her – and be serious about getting a job.


“It’s a very intense program, and if they haven’t decided they want to make a change, they’re not going to accomplish what they need to be successful,” she said.


The agency has started a capital campaign to build a job training campus, a classroom building and even transitional housing. The goal of the campaign is $1 million.


For more information, visit www.megiddodreamstation.org or the agency’s Facebook page.