TAMPA Fla. - At 9 years old, Jamie Jones was breaking into homes to steal money.
Anna Meenes was stealing cars at 14 and taking part in other illegal activity that would earn her fast money.
They are just two of six youths who admittedly made mistakes when they were younger and have managed to turn their lives around.
“I was doing this, stealing cars for 3-4 years straight. I had to be locked up 23 hours a day, going to a program, going to (the Department of Juvenile Justice) constantly to get actually get help and put my mind to it,” says Meenes.
Jamie and Anna have been a part of Eckerd Connects’ Project Bridge, which helps troubled youths transition from the juvenile justice system back into their home communities.
Friday morning, GTE Financial recognized these two teens along with four others at a leadership banquet where they spoke to their peers about their past, and now, their much brighter future.
They have their driver’s licenses, paying jobs and get to go back home to their families. They say this program helped save their lives.
“Your friends aren’t going to change when you do. They’re going to be the same, if you don’t get away from them,” says Meenes.
Marvin Mouzon, a transition coordinator with Project Bridge, has been helping both teens get back on track.
“I believe there is hope. There is hope because we support them, we believe in them,” says Mouzon.
The Bridge program provides services to boys and girls ages 11-21.