Three young men from the St. Johns Youth Academy shared their stories in hopes of keeping other kids out of trouble.
The program is run through a high-risk facility designed for male offenders between the ages of 14 and18.
"We're trying to save lives, not just keep them out of jail,” said Joe Warren, the transition specialist at St. Johns Youth Academy.
Warren brought three young men to visit the children at The Boys and Girls Club in St. Augustine on Monday.
While Action News Jax can’t show their faces or share their names for their protection, we can show you how they captured the attention of the children— from the moment they stepped into the room.
“They're not animals, they're not just thugs and thieves. They're delinquents that made a bad choice,” Warren told Action News Jax.
Warren says these young men are now applying for jobs, getting their GEDs and applying for college.
“These kids are educated. They're in a therapeutic program.They’re getting mental health treatment,” said Warren.
Warren told Action News Jax reporter Courtney Cole the importance of the visit was to show the kids the importance of keeping their freedom and making the right decisions.
“Peer-to-peer is different than an old man getting in front of them, talking to them,” said Warren.
Zyriah Garden said their visit has inspired her to take on the role of mentor for her friends and younger kids at the boys and girls club.
Garden said she’s been coming to The Boys and Girls Club for the last seven years.
"It was just like sad because I know a couple of boys that could be in that position... so I'm going to encourage them not to do that stuff."
Orvando Freeman, the executive director at the St. Johns Youth Academy, told me the young men got something from this experience too. “So as much as they gave, as much as those young men will get it, then the kids will understand, hey you know, I can let this go -- I told my story,” said Freeman.
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