Teens learning life skills at innovative Bridgeport program

The news can often be bad in Bridgeport, but one program is quietly cranking out successful young adults.
Behind an old storefront on East Main Street is a class full of kids learning to be adults. Full Circle Youth Empowerment is cutting through barriers and opening doors for teens from troubled neighborhoods.
"Some of the students will come in and say, 'I've just witnessed a shooting,’” said Full Circle founder Janeen Reid.
Reid, 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 there is a safe space that they can come, that they can vent," said Reid.
Full Circle teaches financial literacy, community service, life coaching, and job training like cooking and hair styling. After his summer at Full Circle, Emmanuel Jean is considering becoming a barber.
"There's, like, a method to it,” he said. “There's, like, a flow to it that helps me."
Full Circle is mainly available to teens in Bridgeport, but also accepts youths for the Connecticut Department of Children and Families. It relies on a mix of private donations, nonprofit grants and state funding.
The program is so popular that Reid says it has up to a six-month waiting list. For Nysira Bouknight, it was worth the wait. She was accepted to Sacred Heart University.
"I want to get a job with kids, so hopefully, I can do something like day care,” said Bouknight. “And since I have the knowledge from this, it'll be easier for me to apply."
Nysira's little brother Tristan says the lessons go far beyond this classroom.
"I think this place really can open a lot of people's eyes about Bridgeport, and show them that people are wrong about the kids and stuff,” he said.
Reid says half the battle is giving teens a “safe space” beyond the uphill battles of crime and poverty.
“Life goes on, you know, despite the surroundings or maybe the communities,” said Reid. “They can have hope."
To apply for Full Circle Youth Empowerment, students can reach out to their school. To become a mentor for participating students, click here.