Dakota was 14 and “out of control.”

When Dakota first came to The Salvation Army, he was 14 and by his own admission, “out of control.”

Dakota was referred to Bridging the Gap Between Youth and Community Services by his probation officer in order to provide structure to his life.

“Dakota was not happy to be here when he first came to us,” said Maggie Perez, program director. “But it didn’t take long for him to get it that we cared about him. After that, he became a new kid.”

FIT_BTG_DakotaPhil

Perez has up to a dozen youth enrolled at any one time in Bridging the Gap in Fitchburg and Gardner.  She teaches from a carefully crafted curriculum and invites speakers from law enforcement and other professions.

Curriculum topics include: conflict resolution, communications skills, self esteem, goal–setting, education and employment among others.

This Christmas, Bridging the Gap students and graduates collected funds at the bucket drives as part of the Red Kettle campaign. “It was fun,” said Dakota. “To be able to give back to this program that’s done so much for me felt awesome.”

Bridging the Gap gets results. Of the students who complete the program, 87% do not reoffend within a year.

Dakota knows how important the lessons are that he learned at Bridging the Gap. “I need to stay this way for the rest of my life and I will go so far in life.”

“Over all, this program is the best thing I ever went to that helped me change my whole life around.”

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