A local at risk and homeless teen shelter helps kids stay off the streets and it’s helping one teen turn his life around.
It’s a graduation day for Bethany Black Hawk Phoenix students,“I use to dream about this day,” it’s a dream that 18 year old Justin McGhee never thought would become reality.
Getting here hasn’t been easy for him though, “It was rough growing up. I was always told I would never be nothing in life, so I don`t know it`s just hard.”
Plus he was going down the wrong road, “Gangbanging, selling drugs, not going to school and stealing cars.”
He admits he didn’t care too much about school either.
“I was going into freshmen year, I was failing all of my classes,” says Justin.
Now Justin wakes up at seven every morning, gets ready and takes a bus to school
After school he stops here, the Place 2 Be.
“We would have one or two kids, maybe three or four a night, now we`re averaging about 22 kids a night,” says Miriam Pitchford, director for the Place 2 Be.
It’s where homeless or at risk teens can go to do homework, have a meal or even just to hang out.
“One of our goals here is to treat the kids with a lot of respect to make up for all the lack of respect they`ve had so they have hope that they can do well in life,” says Miriam.
Also helping kids who have low self-esteem, “I think the biggest problem with our kids is they just don`t have hope and when you don`t hope you continue to make bad decisions," says Miriam.
Justin says it has helped boost his confidence, "They tell you 'oh you can do this, and we're here for you' and stuff like that, just little simple stuff that make you feel good about yourself."
He found a better way to let off some steam too, through basketball, “I think it's stress free, you know, just shooting basketball and being angry, it's just like why be angry when you could shoot a basketball and have fun."
"If you could have 100 Justin’s a year it would be amazing, because this is a kid who decided at a point that he didn't want the life he was leading and it was a pretty dark life,” says Miriam.
Justin is now taking his new attitude and sharing it with other young people.
"Not only is he trying to lift himself, he's trying to reach back and lift other youth who are doing the same thing that he was doing to keep them from going down the road he went through,” says Linda Harper, Justin’s mom.
After accepting his high school diploma, Justin offered some words of motivation, "Everybody can overcome this, you can do this and you can be successful in life,” and giving thanks to those who helped him get to where he is today, "I want to thank the place 2 be for helping me, supporting me."
"It has been such a hard road and too see the complete turnaround he did it is just awe inspiring,” says Linda.
Justin says it’s about moving forward, "To be successful, you have to mess up sometimes, when you mess up you got to rebound yourself,” and looking ahead to his future, "I feel excited, I’m ready to move on and take a step forward to life and grow up."
Justin plans on going to school for ministry and has already enrolled in some classes at Black Hawk College.