Photos courtesy of SailFuture.
Through troubled beginnings, passion is born. As a teenager, Mike Long broke into people’s homes and stole cars from their driveways. The drug trade engulfed his life. His actions led him to spend two years in and out of Florida’s juvenile justice system, where he took stock of his life and figured out what needed to change.
Following his release, he went on to get an education from New College of Florida, and help other boys with a troubled path find a way out like he did.
Troubled Teens by the Numbers
Studies indicate that there are more than 25 million troubled teenagers in the U.S., teens who require some form of intervention before harm is done to themselves or others. Without help, they endanger not only their own life and future but also the stability of their family and society as a whole. Some of these troubled teens are emotionally disturbed, others are runaways, and many are rebelling against their parents or school.
In 2014, juvenile courts across America handled almost 975,000 delinquency cases involving troubled teens charged with criminal law violations. And of these, more than a quarter were committed by females. Over 22,000 of these crimes involved weapons.
With numbers like these, federal authorities are left with few choices. They can refer troubled teenagers to state authorities for prosecution, commence delinquency hearings, or petition the courts to try teens as adults. None of these options are ideal, and the rise of teen crime is an alarming trend in the United States. This indicates a need for new approaches to helping these troubled teens and offering them a second chance to alter their future.
SailFuture is Transforming Troubled Teenagers Lives Through Sailing
The purpose of SailFuture, based in St. Petersburg, FL, is to transform high-risk, troubled teenagers within the criminal justice system into responsible and positive members of society. It does this by focusing on building trust and long-term personal relationships through sailing. Through the curriculum, Long and his team are able to tie the principles of sailing to lessons in life.
The program teaches the teenagers how to set goals, deal with conflict, work as a team, and work with each other to form positive relationships.
How Does SailFuture Work with a Troubled Teen?
As an alternative to other punishments, Florida judges refer youth between 14-18-years old to the SailFuture program. While in the program, the teens live on board a sailboat with a licensed mental health counselor, a captain, and a teacher. In addition to learning to sail, they are also provided with one-on-one counseling, GED high school programs, and training in vocational areas.
SailFuture offers two programs, one called Odyssey and the other Fellowship.
SailFuture is licensed by the Florida Department of Children and Families to operate as a residential group care home. They received accreditation from the Pinellas County School Board and offer a customized, experience-based high school education.
The Future of SailFuture
Since 2013, more than 150 troubled teenagers have gone through the SailFuture non-profit program. Out of these, 97% have graduated from high school.
SailFuture alumni continue to come back and help refine and develop the program to establish practical, authentic, and transformative experiences for the youth they serve.
For more information on how SailFuture plays a critical role in changing the lives of troubled teenagers, watch the video below and visit sailfuture.org.