New Port Richey, Florida - A delegation of state leaders, attorneys and concerned citizens rally to keep the alternative school AMIkids open in New Port Richey. The Department of Juvenile Justice has cut all funding to the program -- $700,000 worth -- forcing AMIkids to close its doors June 30.
State Senator Mike Fasano (R-New Port Richey) tells the group meeting at the Pasco Government building off Little Road AMIkids has helped many youth throughout the years.
Kids like 17-year-old Charles Cagle. He says, "I'm thinking of my future. I want to stay in school, make something of my life."
AMIkids serves about 60 students in Pasco County... teens that have been in trouble with the law who end up helping each other succeed. Charles says, "We work as a team, help each other in class. No one makes a mistake."
The funding cut would close AMIkids in Pasco, but it also impacts services in Hillsborough, Polk, Manatee and Sarasota counties. The program offers students alternative education, behavioral intervention and mental health services along with life skills.
AMIkids National Director of Educational Services, Eric Hall says, "In the end by servicing these kids in the community, it becomes cost savings in the long run to taxpayers."
Charles says the program needs to stay open to give more kids like him a chance. "There's people out there that deserve a second chance and not be thrown back into JDC for something. People can change."
The delegation will be reaching out to the Pasco school district for continued support with teachers and additional help with transportation. The group is also looking for community support.