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After school, “Jeramiah” would return to an empty home. He knew his father would stay at the bar until very late. His mother was in jail. Being alone was “normal” for this sixth-grader.
But that was six months ago. Jeramiah has been welcomed with open arms to a new support system that has the potential to change his life.
He is just one of more than 150 middle schoolers who have taken refuge in the programming of Metro Pittsburgh Youth for Christ Campus Life at the Armory Youth Center in Canonsburg. Most of the pre-teens and young teenagers are at-risk and struggle with extremely difficult home lives. So, the after-school programs have been designed to be a safe place to play, relax, engage their minds, and develop a sense of spirituality.
Jeramiah isn’t alone in his circumstances. About 60 percent of Canonsburg consists of single-parent homes. Centrally located in town, the Armory Youth Center is well within walking distance for most of the students.
During one of the last sessions of the school year, JR Gardner, the Armory Youth Center’s Director, invited those in attendance to share anything about what is going on in their lives with the group. It was an opportunity for the kids to have a voice and be heard.
During the “open mic,” it didn’t take long for Jeramiah to stand up and bravely share his story. He discussed how he had been angry – even felt rage – about things that he was dealing with in his life. Those feelings had caused him to get into some trouble at school. However, the Armory Youth Center’s Campus Life program was helping him to move forward with a new perspective. He said, “I feel like now I’m on the right path, and I’m making better decisions.” Jeramiah’s story is still being written. With the help of the Armory Youth Center, perhaps for the first time, it has its best chance ever of a happy ending.