SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. - Teens in Snohomish County are getting the chance to find a new path with the help of someone who was once in their shoes. A new program, created by Sheriff Adam Fortney, hopes to provide encouragement and direction to keep teens away from a life of crime.
Lead the Way Program for Youth is designed to connect with kids 13 to 17 years old that are struggling to make good decisions, specifically youth in Snohomish County that have committed a crime or may be at a crossroads in life.
"We want to get them into a setting with some positive strong mentoring along the way. Maybe redirect them in a different direction than they’re currently at. Teach them how to make good decisions and maybe offer some long-term mentoring after the program is over," said Fortney.
Tyler Ware was once that troubled teen. He said growing up in Snohomish County without any role models had a big impact on him.
"There wasn’t a time in my life, even before crime and drugs, that I was ever really happy. I never really had a purpose, just kind of drifted through life and did my thing," said Ware. "Addicted to drugs and narcotics and things which led to committing crime. That happens in that lifestyle."
That lifestyle landed Ware in prison twice. Some of his past struggles are shared on the sheriff's office's Facebook page. He said after seeing his mugshot on Q13 News' Washington’s Most Wanted, he knew it was time for a change.
Ware’s road to redemption also caught Fortney’s attention.
"I want people to know his story because I think it can inspire other people who’ve been down that road," said Fortney.
It’s a road Lead the Way is trying to protect area kids from going down. Fortney and Ware will lead the program, focused on supporting these teens through courses rooted in life skills, decision-making, accountability, and leadership. Fortney said he is passionate about working with youth in the community.
"We just know that there are societal pressures on the youth these days. I’ve got teenagers at home, I’ve already raised teenagers. The pressures on them are tremendous these days," said Fortney. "Maybe [they] have succumbed to some of those pressures, they may have committed a crime. I don’t want that to be a deal-breaker. Kids are allowed to make mistakes but it doesn’t need to impact their entire life."
"You have to really want it. Nobody can want it for you. Your mom can’t want it for you, your brother, even mentors like us. If we reach somebody, they have to really want the help," said Ware.
It’s the kind of help Ware said he needed growing up, but now he hopes to use his comeback story as inspiration to keep kids away from a life of crime.
"I think it would have made a huge difference in the path that I chose to go in life. So, I hope if I can just reach one kid, just one kid, change one life it would make a world of difference for them, for me," said Ware.
Ware now lives a clean life and is planning a wedding. He is also preparing to become a new father.
The two-month program will meet once a week for two hours. Applications are open online through June 1. The sheriff said the plan is to begin the program in July.
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