NXT Level program serves as alternative to jail, wayward activity for youth

More than 100 teens, young adults have entered program

By Deven Clarke - Crime and Justice Reporter, Adam B. Higgins - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - A program aimed at keeping teenagers and young adults out of trouble and engaged in positive, constructive activity has already attracted about 100 people in the few months it's been in existence.

DeQun Overton, 22, is among the young adults who joined the NXT Level program at the Frank Garrett Center.

"It's like God led me here. (I) just got fed up and tired of my lifestyle of being in the streets, doing not what I'm supposed to do, you know," Overton said.

The city program is in partnership with Goodwill San Antonio and Communities in Schools.

"Whether it's applying for a job, helping work on a resume and interview questions, or just finding a school that, you know, they can re-enroll in. Or, you know, if there's a job training program or a college that they want to eventually enroll in," said Tim Pazderka, NXT Level program manager.

The program model works well for Overton.

"Negative people stop hanging around with you. I (may) talk to you, but I won't hang with you. Because you're not doing me no good," Overton said.

Overton came to the program on his own free will, but for others it may be their last chance to avoid jail time.  

"The municipal courts is one of our partners and some people who have kind of low-level offenses, you know, minor traffic violations, a judge may refer them over to our program," Pazderka said.

Either way, program volunteers said the program is having a big impact. 

"It opens up an array of opportunity, because now you can come in, be coached, and some of us are shy in the process. Some way, somehow, the counselors are bringing out the best of them," said Greg Jackson, program volunteer.

With guidance and support, Overton can see a bright future ahead.  

"If ... that doesn't work, I want to go to the military. And either be in the Navy or Marines," Overton said.

The program is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

For more information, call 210-207-1723 or send an email to nxtlevelsa.org.

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