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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — One by one, men at the Kansas City Reentry Center filed into their graduation ceremony. It’s a moment they’ve been waiting for for a long time.

“You got to buckle down. That’s what I did,” one graduate said.

The 16 men just completed Connections to Success’ Personal and Professional Development Training Program. It’s aimed to help people like them, who went down the wrong path and landed in prison. Now, those men are trying to start a new, better life.

“We all got our second shots. It’s time to take advantage of it,” the graduate said.

Miss USA Cheslie Kryst was on the mic as the ceremony’s keynote speaker on Thursday.

“Everybody deserves a second chance, and everybody deserves a fair shot at justice,” Kryst said.

Kryst, also a complex litigation attorney, was recently named a Dress for Success ambassador. She is now taking part in a tour to raise awareness and support.

The pageant winner is here in Kansas City to take part in three events hosted by DFSKC and Connections to Success. She said she’s passionate about helping people transition back into society after spending time in prison.

“Seeing firsthand my work and the effect that it has on the lives of others is really exciting,” Kryst said.

Josh Hoover finished Connections’ program and was released from prison over the summer. He now has a full-time job.

Hoover calls the program life changing.

“A felony is a scarlet letter. I got to carry this for the rest of my life,” Hoover said. “I’m always going to be a felon, but that doesn’t define who I am. It allowed me to be reconnected on who I really was.”

As these men work on adjusting back into their communities, Connections to Success hopes to give them a boost of confidence.

The Personal and Professional Development Training Program is a two-week course that helps these men draw out a life plan and work on skills that will make them successful members of society.