Youth Becoming Leaders

By: Tina Stein
By: Tina Stein

It's a place for second chances. Where one's past doesn't define the future and the only direction to go, is forward.

"I'm going from felonies to misdemeanors so I think I'm doing better," says program member Joseph Garza.

The improvements may seem small, but to those at Youth Becoming Leaders, they're huge strides in fighting the lives they were given. The program helps 25 at-risk youth get off the streets and stay in school. Leaders help them get into college, find a job and keep track of court dates. Something members say is well-needed.

"We are not all angles cause we're not all doing perfectly well, but we're not out there robbing places anymore we're not out there doing stuff trying to get in trouble like we used to," says member Jeffrey Stark.

Matt Gargano started the program just last year after learning juvenile arrests went up about a thousand-percent since 1998. Recently he adopted member Joseph Garza and is looked at as a father figure to other members, since most don't have one at home.

"It's a lack of guidance it's a lack of sense of belonging it's a lack of guidance lack of support system. That's really what it is," Gargano says.

At 22, Dwayne Mitchell just got his high school diploma. He credits Youth Becoming Leaders for his success.

"I'm just thankful that someone got a hold of me and helped me change myself," he says.

All three guys say they plan on finishing college and will pursue careers in either law or psychology. But for now, they're just thankful for a second chance at life.

Youth Becoming Leaders operate strictly on donations. Program president Matt Gargano says he hopes to get enough money where he can house these at-risk kids in the future.


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