Sheila Raye Charles, daughter of legendary Ray Charles, recently shared with the youth incarcerated at Palmetto Youth Academy. She spoke of how she abused crack cocaine and lost her children because of her addiction. Sheila Raye was in a federal penitentiary when she felt God speak to her. She felt His love for her and His desire for her to not be bound by these hurts, hang-ups, and habits. Once she got out and started a new life, a life apart from drugs, she found that it was her “hook-ups” that was now binding her.
The same is true for many of the teens with whom we work. Often, after finishing their sentences, youth find themselves back in the same environments with the same ol’ “hook-ups” making their way back into their lives. One young man from Miami, called me and told me that in his first weekend home after his release, his old friends came over and offered him drugs and weapons. He was still on adult probation, and facing 30 years for any re-offense. These so-called friends were offering him a 30 year sentence in adult prison. We touched base many times in those first few weeks. He mentioned how lonely he was, since he had to turn away from all of his former friends. In many of the juvenile justice facilities, teens are helped to deal with their hurts, their hang-ups, and given time to break away from their habits/addictions. The staff cannot help these youth overcome their former “hook-ups”, once they get back home.
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn
“Hook-ups” are one of the main reasons these teens go back into the cycle of crime. For this reason, we believe coaching/mentorship and training are so important. These teens need a support system surrounding them, to help them break away from this final bondage. This is also the reason that we are raising support for a group transition home – Xtreme D, a place where these “hook-ups” are controlled. It is a place where the teens can find freedom, within a controlled environment. Xtreme D is an alternative to going home to a toxic environment, where love and discipleship are intertwined. This is a place of transformation for juvenile offenders under a highly structured goal oriented approach –centered on determination, academic and physical discipline, enhancing leadership development, and focused spiritual discipleship. A safe, clean home-like environment help the teens build new life. We provide career counselling, job training, education, and tutoring, to help the teens focus on achieving their goals.