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.
The Bridge program provides services to boys and girls ages 11-21.
We’ve told you the epidemic in Tampa Bay of kids stealing cars and what programs there are in our area to help our youth.
We looked into several programs, like Project Bridge that help support troubled youth.
Elevations in Tampa helps local boys and girls with everything from substance abuse to mental health issues.
Florida Youth Challenge Academy helps youth 16 to 18 years old. with a 17 1/2 month program where they learn job skills and leadership to get their life back on track.
Pinellas County Re-Link program starts working with troubled youth while they're still in juvenile detention center.
For more organizations, check this list here.
Shannon Valladolid is a reporter for 10News. Send her story ideas here. Shannonv@wtsp.com
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