How we began…
Project LIFT (Life Initiatives for Teens) began in March 2010 when licensed psychotherapist Bob Zaccheo struggled to find a way to connect with teenage boys in his office at a non-profit mental health agency in Martin County, Florida. With a focus on substance abuse counseling, he found that young teenage boys refused to participate in the therapy sessions. Zaccheo recognized the key to success was to get them out of the office and provide incentives to keep them motivated toward life improvement.
Before beginning Project LIFT, Zaccheo interviewed teenage boys and discovered they wanted to learn a trade or work on automobiles. He traded in his desk for a pair of work boots, rented a nearby garage, and spent time working with his patients repairing vehicles. He invited five teens to participate in an intensive 14-week session combining vocational skills training, substance abuse treatment, group and individual mental health therapy and mentoring.
THE REST IS HISTORY:
2010 – Project LIFT program initiated. Under the guidance of licensed volunteer tradesman, Project LIFT participants gutted and renovated a small building which was used as a teen center. Project LIFT was located in a garage space at the Boat Museum repairing old cars and boats.
2011 – Project LIFT received a 501(c)(3) non-profit designation. Solidified a strong visionary Board of Directors and began to expand the program.
2012 – 2014 Received funding from local foundations and supporting organizations. Hired full-time therapists, vocational instructors and volunteers. Began earned income screen printing.
2015 – Purchased an 8,000 square foot building in Palm City, Florida which is debt-free. The potential of the increased warehouse space would afford the expansion for a girl’s program, expansion of vocational skills curriculum and growth of earned income opportunities fostering self-sufficiency.
2016 – Project LIFT expanded and created a girls program. The girls version of Project LIFT launched with young ladies who had chosen unhealthy behaviors as a result of trauma they experienced therefore resulting in poor decision making and/or substance abuse. Vocational skills training includes sewing, agriculture, screen printing and all Project LIFT trades.
2017 – Technology meets the trades by upgrading to industry standard equipment. The program space had been redesigned for industry standard auto repair, boat building and restoration, screen printing/graphic arts, bicycle repair, welding, carpentry, sewing, upholstery and agriculture. The industry standard equipment has attracted employers who volunteer to train the teens and seek out prospective employees.
2018 - Created Pathway Academy of Innovation program to help teens who have dropped out of school attain their high school diploma while learning a vocational trade. Project LIFT expanded to Belle Glade, Western Palm Beach County and Dunnellon in Marion County. Belle Glade ranks near the top of the list for crime, unemployment and juvenile delinquency in Florida. There are neighborhood pockets of unemployment rates up to 40%. Dunnellon in Marion County has one of the highest school drop-out rates in Florida.