17-yr-old goes from juvenile justice system to enrolling in nursing school with Project Bridge

There’s something tangible in Dakota Freeman’s voice as he talks about his future.

Hope. Excitement. Determination. Whatever it is, the 17-year-old Polk County resident has it in abundant supply.

“I want to be a nurse,” said Freeman, who plans to enroll in Southeastern University’s fall 2017 class.

Freeman is a participant in Eckerd Kids’ Project Bridge program, which focuses on giving juveniles involved with the justice system all the tools they need to succeed. Under the program’s guidance, he earned his GED ahead of schedule.

“I like helping people,” he said while touring Southeastern recently. “Since I was little that’s what I’ve wanted to be. I figured now is the right time to start chasing my dreams.”

Now he’s got his eye on a master’s degree, and plans to eventually become a nurse practitioner.

“It’s just going to take time and patience,” said Freeman.

Through Project Bridge, Freeman had the opportunity to tour a number of schools — but Southeastern won him over instantly.

“When we were touring Southeastern, Dakota told me that having goals is what keeps him from making poor decisions,” said Project Bridge Transition Coordinator Alysia Smith. “We love hearing that. ”

Right now, he’s planning on dual enrolling at Traviss Technical College for the nursing portion of his degree.

“I probably wouldn’t have pursued this without them,” said Freeman of his friends at Project Bridge. “Thank you for helping me chase my dreams.”