Fresh Start Program Gives At-Risk City Youth Shot At Graduation, Employment

BALTIMORE (WJZ)– A program designed to take at-risk Baltimore teens and teach them academic skills to obtain a high school diploma of GED is yielding positive results.

The Fresh Start program takes teens who have run-in’s with the law and teaches them academic skills to graduate high school. About two dozen students can join at a time.

High school graduate Kevin Brown, 17, was determined to never go back to the Baltimore Juvenile Justice Center after being released last year.

“All the hard work and all the time and the effort that I put into it, just finally paid off,” Brown said.

Coordinator Shaunta Cheaton prepares the teens for the high school equivalency exam.

“Fresh Start is basically a program for males 16 to 19,” Cheaton said. “A majority of the judges in Baltimore City recommend the Fresh Start program to their youth to help them get out of the streets, get out of trouble and do something productive with their lives.”

“When I found this program, they talked to me,” said 18-year-old Rashawn Mays. “They care about us and then I see that they really want something for us.”

Mays was promoted in the program and is gainfully employed. He wants to work with computers and is on track to get his high school diploma. He says he wants to go to college for computer technology.

Students are promoted every eight weeks to a new phase of the program, which empowers them to build on what they’ve learned.

“I was told the saying ‘you give a man a fish, you feed him for one day. You teach a man how to fish, you can feed him for life.’ And it never really rang through my head what that meant until I advanced in the program,” Brown said.

Nearly 80 percent of Fresh Start graduates remain employed or continue their education in the years after completing the program.

The Fresh Start Program is made possible by the Living Classrooms Foundation, which serves thousands of at-risk youth and adults in the Baltimore area.

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