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Martin County organization helping at-risk teens turn their lives around

Martin County organization helping at-risk teens turn their lives around.(MGN)

We constantly hear about the battle against the opioid epidemic, but we don’t hear about the toll it takes on teenage addicts.

One organization in Martin County dedicated their time helping teenagers who started on a rough path turn their lives around.

Project Lift started in 2010, strictly helping at-risk teen boys. In 2016, they started Project Willow by helping at-risk teenage girls. All of the people who come to project lift have either had a major trauma in their life, dropped out of school or battled a drug/ alcohol problem. They work with teenagers ages 14-19.

“We solve the problem. Not serve it,” said Bob Zaccheo, Executive Director of Project Lift and Licensed Psychotherapist. He continued, “we need to hone in on it so those kids aren't tax burdens or problems for our community down the road.”

Sarah Paulick, the Director of Programs at Project Lift, said, these teenagers are “reaching out for something, for something different then maybe they don’t have, they’re not getting at home or in school.”

Project Lift focuses on giving these teenagers the tools they need to be independent and become productive members of our community. They give them a family atmosphere to help lead them in the right direction.

Zaccheo said they have family meals once a day with each group of teenagers.

“We say we love you and care about you and we're here for you,” said Zaccheo.

17-year-old Henry Bezio is one of those teenagers. He first came to Project Lift after getting in trouble for drugs.

“I always hung around the wrong people and that's what gets you,” said Bezio.

He then joined their Summit Education Group after dropping out of high school.

“I just couldn’t focus,” said Bezio.

If he stayed in school, he wouldn’t have graduated until he was 21.

Now, thanks to Project Lift, he’s graduating in a couple months when he’s 18. He’s hoping to become a welder.

“I feel like it really changed who I was before,” said Bezio.

He is one of the hundreds of students who learn a specific technique here. There’s bike mechanics, graphic design, boat building, and much more.

“We’re bringing back what's been left behind. We’re bringing back the trade that's so important,” said Paulick.

Paulick and Zaccheo said these teenagers typically stick around or come back because they’re given an uplifting work environment.

“They feel like they're coming to their job. They find value and dignity in that,” said Zaccheo.

If you want to learn more about Project Lift, head over to their website.

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