Families Up To The Challenge Of Thier Kids Changing

Only on 8
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Everyday you hear about kids gone bad - local gang members, substance abusers, and high school drop-outs. But, what makes these kids end up on the wrong side of the tracks?

Yesterday we told you about local "at risk" teenagers sent to a Arizona boot camp. In part two of Jennifer Rogers' special series - the "Tough Love Academy" - we meet the teenagers families.

It was an emotional day for our ten Nevada teens. This is first time they have seen their families since they left for Project Challenge four months ago.

Jerrich James and her mother Sheri couldn't wait to be re-united. "I knew when I put her on the plane, there went my baby girl and when she came back she wouldn't be the same and she's not," Sheri says.

Jerrich's parents weren't the only ones we spoke with who say it's the first time they have seen their kids so disciplined. Now the teenagers are taking orders to get their lives on the right track.

A straight line . . . that is what Carson City resident Chris White is shooting for. He remembers what he was like before Project Challenge.
"I got in trouble doing things I wasn't supposto be doing - like arguments, fights, and stuff like that."

According to Chris and his family life at home wasn't so easy. Says his father, Russell White: "It came to a point, not so much the fists would fly. With the attitude - I'm going to knock your head off."

Since Chris was five he was brought up in a broken home with substance abusers . . . abusers who have since changed their ways and want a better life for their son.

"He's my first son, my first boy, my first child. All I can say is I want him to go a lot further than I did," Russell says.

And the only way to do that, they said was to send him to Project Challenge. Said Chris' step-mother, Loretta Rose Peterson-White: "We knew with a structured program before he reached 18 that he would be turned around."

With a little more than a month to go, other families hope to see the same changes.

Amy Harris, Amber Soto's mother says: "It's tough on the families, very tough on the families but it's worth it."

For the past number of years Amy Harris has raised Amber as a single parent. She says her daughter was never a "bad" kid, just not focused. Back in Reno, Amber's grades were slipping drastically at North Valleys High School.

But, now she sees a significant change.

"I find myself wanting to be here, wanting to change, wanting to have an education and respect my mom more," Amber says.

Since Amber has been in the program she has gotten her G.E.D. and enrolled in Truckee Meadows Community College.

While students like Amber and Chris are straightening out their lives - so are their families.

"He's doing his recovery, I'm doing mine, we are all doing ours and it's making life better," says Russell White.

In tomorrow's final installment of the "Tough Love Academy" Jennifer talks with the students and organizers about their futures and the future of Project Challenge in Nevada.