By Karen Morfitt

DENVER (CBS4) – For many families living in Denver it can be tough to make ends meet and for those living in poverty it is nearly impossible to get ahead. CrossPurpose, a Denver non-profit is trying to change that.

Director Cordelia Randall says they go beyond what a typical workforce agency can do.

“The goal of the program is so people can have careers, not just jobs,” Randall said.

It is a six-to-12 month career and community development program for unemployed or underemployed adults looking to become self-sufficient.

It starts with a closer look at an individual’s strengths and interests; from there they develop the skills needed to land a high paying job — over $15 an hour in a growing profession.

Heather Barton graduated from the program Wednesday night. She has already landed her dream job.

“I’m a certified water operator,” she said with a smile.

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She is excited to go to work every day, because her life before it was a struggle. A struggle that came to a head when doctors diagnosed her son with Type 1 Diabetes.

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“We were doing OK and then with all the medical bills we were no longer doing OK,” Barton said.

Nearly two years ago she made the decision to leave her job in the restaurant industry and has been working to improve her situation ever since.

“You worry about putting food on the table but it’s not the same as when you’re worried about having to get medicine to keep your own flesh and blood alive. It’s overwhelming,” she said.

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On a stage alongside her classmates, all in different but equally testing situations, she even delivered the salutatorian speech.

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Her husband and son were in the audience, watching with pride.

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“Everything I’ve done up until now has been for my son. Seeing him there looking up at me from the audience was just so special,” she said.

Barton left the ceremony Wednesday night holding her diploma but carrying so much more out into the world.

“Coming out on this side graduation it’s like I was following the light at the end of the tunnel the whole time and now I’m finally stepping into it,” she said.

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The best part, the CrossPurpose program pays individuals to stick with it and go to school.

Since it started in 2012, the organization has helped more than 250 people, 93 percent of which remain employed.

Karen Morfitt joined the CBS4 team as a reporter in 2013. She covers a variety of stories in and around the Denver metro area. Connect with her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @karenmorfitt or email her tips.

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