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Department of Juvenile Justice Teenager from Orlando Benefits from Eckerd’s Project Bridge Program

Kera (17) of Orlando has recently been selected as a  Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Youth Ambassador and is attending Children’s Week and DJJ Youth Success Day next week in Tallahassee to advocate on behalf of youth just like her.

Locally, Project Bridge helps youth succeed through serving boys and girls ages 11-17 transitioning out of a Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) residential commitment program.

Kera’s criminal/ legal involvement started when she was 13 years old and continued until she was committed at the age of 17.  Kera was never really interested in school and had various conflicts in school. She had a history of alternative school placement and this ultimately led to her being enrolled into a GED program at the age of 17.  She was automatically withdrawn due to missing too many days. Kera’s legal history continued to progress until she was charged with grand theft, which led her to being committed.

Upon Kera’s release back into the community, she was referred to Project Bridge.  During her tenure at Project Bridge, she has excelled as one of the most motivated and innovative youth that attended the program. Kera was very receptive to services and again took advantage of everything.   She participated in employment classes two to three times per week; completed community service hours, though it was not required; participated in mentor meetings; and assisted the program in many special events.  Kera was involved in community service activities with IHeart Media, Everglades University, and Adventist University.

Kera did a lot of employment searches on her own and applied with Icicle Seafoods.  She took the skills she learned in class, applied the skills, and was selected for this out of state position as a fish processor on a boat in Alaska.  Kera was nervous, but her determination was unyielding.  She traveled to Seattle and set forth on her assignment.  She will tell you that this was a very tough job, but one that she learned a lot from.  She indicates that being on the boat permitted her to let go of her past mistakes.  She is now back in Florida and working at Pollo Tropical.  She is searching for a second job as well.  She has recently applied for FASFA and desires to start her path towards the medical field at Valencia College.  Kera also applied for a scholarship and was recently selected as one of five recipients of the $1,000 Harris Rosen Foundation Scholarship.

Kera’s life time goal is to be in the medical field and she would love to become a surgeon.  She will tell you her passion is to help people.  She is the first to say that she made a lot of poor decisions as a juvenile and she never thought that she would be attending college.  Going to a program helped her realize that she can be something.  Kera contributes staying on the right path to Project Bridge and has written that without the program she would not have been able to realize she is not her past mistakes.

Kera has already been inspiring to others and has volunteered to return to Project Bridge to speak to other youth.