May 25, 2018
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Program, businesses join forces to help troubled teens

By Diana Bowley, BDN Staff

CORINTH, Maine — It took several years for the 18-year-old to straighten out his life, but after a nine-month stay at Mountain View Youth Development Center in Charleston and the trust extended to him by a local business owner, Dylan Colvin believes he’s now in a good place.

“Charleston kind of saved me, it really did,” Colvin said Saturday during a break from washing dishes at Countryside Restaurant in Corinth.

At 14, Colvin became hooked on pills he found, which gave him highs and lows, and when he added alcohol to the mix his young life changed dramatically.

When the young man’s parents ran out of options for intervention, they showed him the door. For the next four years, Colvin lived in a Bangor shelter, where he said he continued using drugs and “got mixed up with the wrong crowd.” After one particular night of binge drinking with his friends, he got into a fight and found himself spending nine months at the Charleston center.

It was there that Colvin realized his life was a mess, he said. With the help of the Jobs for Maine Graduates program and Scott Tuller of Countryside Restaurant in Corinth, Colvin learned there was more to life than drinking and drugs.

“I feel like I’m maturing and starting to live a real life,” Colvin said.

He was released from the center in November, shares an apartment in Corinth with another person, and works at the restaurant as a dishwasher and a line cook. He does however, remain on “after care” with the center until he turns 19.

“I’m very lucky to have him,” Colvin said of Tuller. “I appreciate everything he has done.”

Tuller actually hired Colvin through the program before he was released from the center.

Jobs for Maine Graduates, formed by the Maine Legislature in 1993, is a nonprofit corporation designed to help students stay in school, and it provides them with job training and job readiness. The program operates in most middle and high schools in the state as well as at the Charleston facility and Long Creek Development Center in Portland.

All students at the center between the ages of 17 and 21 must have their high school diploma or a GED in order to participate in the program, according to Pat Gillis, the center’s JMG program manager.

“The program is designed to give these kids skills that will help them become productive young adults when they reintegrate back into their communities,” Gillis said. “A lot of these kids do not realize that they have abilities, capabilities and skills.”

Mountain View Youth Development Center is working hard to help the students change their lives, and JMG is a part of that, she said.

Since the program started at the center two years ago, Gillis said, about 80 students have participated in the JMG program, but only about 18 have advanced to the experiential learning program, which pairs students up with willing employers.

“That is the pinnacle of the training and not all of them make it,” Gillis said. Colvin is one of the best examples of the program’s success, she said.

As part of that program, the student provides a resume and applies for a job. After being interviewed, Colvin was hired by Tuller. Today, he not only washes dishes but he also fills in as a line cook and he hopes someday to own his own restaurant.

“I’m very happy with Dylan, but he deserves it because he’s worked really hard since the day he came in,” Tuller said Saturday. “I like people who want to work hard to earn something.”

He said there was some hesitation on his part when Gillis first approached him about Dylan, but those worries quickly evaporated.

“This program would not happen without these local employers giving a hand to these youth that need a second chance,” Gillis said. “I really have to applaud people like Scott Tuller who will take that chance, that risk, and it has been successful so far.”

Other local businesses that have hired students in the program include Whitney’s Family Market, Crescent Lumber, Tate’s Strawberry Farm, True Farms, Whitetail Golf Course and Olmsted’s Orchard.

“There’s got to be a collaboration, we’ve got to bring the community on board with getting these kids ready to go back to their own communities, and Corinth and Charleston have really stepped up to the plate to do this,” Gillis said.

Gillis said for the program to be a success, parents also need to get involved. Dylan’s parents have gone from not being able to handle him to embracing him and providing him encouragement, she said.

Dylan’s father, Jeff Colvin of Bangor, said Saturday that his family had never given up on Dylan and had always participated with him in various rehabilitation programs, but Dylan simply could not live by the family’s rules.

‘‘Dylan had to hit rock bottom before he could find his way back up to become a contributing member of society,’’ he said. He sees his son now as a ‘‘whole different person.’’

“I made a lot of mistakes that I can’t take back, so now all I can do is just change,” Dylan Colvin said. “It feels good, it definitely does.”

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