Program ready to help at-risk young adults in East Tampa

Eckerd Kids awarded grant from US Dept. of Labor
Posted at 6:08 PM, Jan 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-31 09:59:59-05

A new effort is underway to help at-risk young adults in Tampa.  he goal is to improve stability through mentoring, education and employment. And there's even an incentive to help get them on the path to success.

Gary Chiles listened carefully in his first day of class at Gary Adult High School in Tampa. The 24-year-old is ready for a fresh start.

"Not having a father figure or mother there for me always, not having that guidance is what got me in this system.  I'm looking forward to better myself now. Those days i couldn't control, but i can control my future," Chiles said.

Gary was in and out of foster care, starting at age five. When he aged out of the system, he quickly realized he didn't really know how to be an adult. He struggled to find steady work, pay credit card bills, and have stable housing..

"But there's always hope," said Chiles.

Gary's now part of the first Employment Pathways Collaborative program through Eckerd Kids and its program, Paxen. The young people enrolled are all ages 18 to 24 from East Tampa and have gone through the juvenile justice system.

"We want to give them the skills so they can be the agents of change for their community," said Curtis Campogni, Employment Pathways Collaborative area manager.

The program works in three ways. First, young adults are paired with a mentor, and come into a classroom setting to learn skills to help make them ready for the workforce. Then, they're connected with jobs, career training, or GED classes. And in some cases, they'll move on to college.

"We have a curriculum that is eight weeks. We've got one that can be two weeks if they're more advanced. Our career coaches meet with them one on one, understand what their needs are, then align their plan with the pathways collaborative to meet them and help overcome any potential barriers they might have," said Campogni.

With success, students can even earn cash stipends.

Gary Chiles has dreams of going to culinary school and running his own business, and is confident this program will help him find stability and success.

If you or someone you know would like to enroll in the free program, you can drop by Gary Adult High School during normal business hours Monday through Friday at 5101 N. 40th St. in Tampa. You can also call program manager Tessa Randolph at 813-539-0175 or via email