At-risk youth get help with Fresh Path program

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A local non-profit that has been serving the community for more than 20 years is finding new ways to change the lives of children in need.

Fresh Ministries started working on a program to help young people who'd come face to face with the long arm of the law, get onto a productive path that includes a job.

Duval County youth under the supervision of the Juvenile Justice system in out-of-home placement, on probation or parole, can participate.

For a business getting involved, there is no cost if a company wants to participate.

At its heart it's a partnership between Fresh Ministries and Career Source of Northeast Florida. Together they're helping troubled teens make a U-turn and head in the direction of a bright future.

Christianna James, 18, is one of the teens admitting they've had trouble with the law and said that the program has already made a change in her life.

"I was interested in doing the program. My mom thought I should do it. And here I am today, and it's really helping out," James said.

That's part of the reason that people like Dazel Rashad said they're willing and able to get some help from a program called Fresh Path.

"It keeps me from out the streets, it keeps me from out the streets for real though. It do. Coming to work every morning, every day, Monday through Friday," Rashad said.

Kids who've had a brush with the law get training and a chance to meet business owners like Bruce Jackson, who's both no-nonsense, and no condemnation.

"I went through high school, voted most likely not to succeed. One of the bad guys. Somebody took an interest in me and seen something. It's why I'm here talking to you today," Jackson said. "And I want to take an interest in this because I see someone who needs guidance."

Jackson gave Rashad a chance with a job at Jackson's uniform business.

Michelle Hughes, director of the Urban Initiative for Fresh Ministries, said that's success because it keeps young men and women out of trouble, and in line for achieving more than a criminal record.

"The community has the opportunity to change the life of a youth and to give them, not a second chance, but another chance," Hughes said.

"It feels good. It makes me feel real good, knowing that I've got a job and stuff right now," Rashad said.

Right now there are 25 young people 17, 18 or 19 years old involved but Fresh Path can accommodate 150 people.

About the Author: