Teenagers learn life skills with innovative Bridgeport program

Bad news is common in Bridgeport, but one program is quietly pushing out successful youngsters.

Behind an old storefront on East Main Street is a class full of kids learning to be adults. Full Circle Youth Empowerment breaks down barriers and opens doors for her teens in troubled neighborhoods.

“Some students will come and say, ‘I just witnessed a shooting,'” said Full Circle founder Janeen Reid.

Reed, a former social worker, started Full Circle four years ago. For many of these students, she is a second mom.

“We try to provide both emotional and practical support every day so that they feel like they have a safe place to come and vent.” said Reed.

Full Circle teaches financial literacy, community service, life coaching, and vocational training such as cooking and hair styling. Emmanuelle Jean has finished her summer at Full Circle and is thinking of becoming a barber.

“There’s a way to do it,” he said. “There is a flow that helps me.”

Full Circle caters primarily to teenagers from Bridgeport, but also accepts young people from the Connecticut Department of Children and Families. It relies on a combination of private donations, nonprofit grants, and state funding.

The program is so popular that it has a waiting list of up to six months, Reid said. For Nysira Bouknight, the wait was worth it. She was accepted into the College of the Sacred Heart.

“I want to work with children, so hopefully I can do something like a daycare. prize.”

Nysira’s brother Tristan says the lessons extend far beyond the classroom.

“I think this place can really open a lot of people’s eyes about Bridgeport and show them what people are doing wrong about kids and things.

Reade says half the battle is giving teenagers a “safe haven” beyond the uphill battles of crime and poverty.

“Life goes on regardless of your surroundings or community,” Reid said. “They can have hope.”

To apply for Full Circle Youth Empowerment, students can contact their school. Click here to become a mentor to a participating student.

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