KILLEEN - With rising crime rates, one Killeen mentorship program hopes to reach "at-risk" youth and straighten them back onto the right path.
The program, run through the Transforming Life Center, began when one woman said she grew tired of talking about the youth crime issues in Killeen and decided to actually do something about it.
LaDonna Harris, the program's executive director, spoke with Channel 6 Friday, and explained what her program is all about.
Harris' program serves at-risk kids from ages 12 through 19. The children often come from a broken home, are on probation, have a misdemeanor, or at times even a felony charge.
The kids work closely with a community mentor for a year or longer and learn life skills such as how to work through anger, communicate openly, and make the right choices.
"You can role model, you can be a mentor, you can show a positive image for the children that they might not see otherwise," Harris said.
The positive adult image the program tries to instill in kids is something Bryan Hildenbrand appreciated. After spending a year in jail, Hildenbrand said his mentor got him on the right path.
"She started helping me do better in class, get my stuff done, stay out of trouble and like helped me get a job and basically helped me keep moving forward with life," Hildenbrand said.
With a new baby and family to think about, Hildenbrand said utilizing those skills his mentor taught him are more important than ever before.
Christina Santiago, a program mentor, said she wants to invest into the next generation.
"When you're old and you're looking at the world fall apart...what did you do to change it," Santiago said.
Harris said the program is a step in the right direction, but is calling on the community for more volunteers.
"They really need to get involved," Harris said."It takes a village to raise a child and one person can't do it alone. If you see a problem, let's not just talk about it but let's do something about it."
Joshua Ebanks, received a $500 scholarship from TLC this year for his achievements. The letter below was written by Ebanks on his experience with a mentor and his mindset of Transforming Life Center.
Back in 2015 my life was a mess. I would always get in trouble and anger my parents by doing something stupid and uncalled for. My mother and I would always get in arguments over the stupidest things too, like not washing my dishes or cleaning my laundry, one night was really bad though. My mother and I got into an argument because my room wasn't cleaned, even though she asked me to clean it multiple times throughout the week. She yelled at me for hours and hours, all I wanted was for her to leave me alone so I can clean the room in peace but she wouldn't. Eventually I got mad that I threatened to hit my mother. She went downstairs and told my stepfather what I did and that we got into a wrestling match, which I lost. After my mother kicked me out of the house, I thought my life was over. I thought that this was the worst that it could possibly get and there was no coming back from this. Until one day my mom signed me up for a program that changed my life. At first, I hated the thought of signing up for it, and to be honest I didn't want to go. The first day I went there, I met this hilarious black woman from New Jersey named La Donna Harris. She insured my mother and I that we were in the right place, and that I would be a better person. She told me that there was no going back, I could only move forward from here. When my mother and I left I was nervous and excited about what will come next. About a week or so later I was assigned a mentor named Curtis Harris, an oh man he was the greatest person I have ever met. Mr. Harris always made me laugh and it felt like he was part of my family. The advice he gave me, I will cherish. I'm just glad that I met him because he turned my life around. Jump forward a few years and I just graduated high school. I received my diploma and I'm off to college in a month. I couldn't have done any of this without my loving parents, Mr. Curtis Harris, and the TLC mentoring program if it wasn't for them, who knows where I'd be. The Transforming life Center is a place that can turn your life around, and even give you a new family. With them anything can happen, if they turned me around just think what they can do to you.
Harris hopes to expand the program to include a multi-purpose youth center where teens can go to take part in safe, fun activities.
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