Who We Serve-Youth

By founding the Bridges To Life program in 1998, John Sage was intent not only on bringing the same healing he had experienced to other victims of crime, but also on reducing the recidivism rates among offender participants and increasing community safety through the subsequent reduction in crime. One question John Sage was consistently asked over the years is “do you work with youth?”

In February of 2009, the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department requested implementation of BTL in one of their facilities. Kirk Blackard, BTL board member and author of Restoring Peace and the Bridges To Life Study Guide, began work on a study guide geared toward juveniles aged 13-17. In the fall of 2009, the first BTL Juvenile Program piloted with 20 youth and four volunteers at the Harris County Youth Leadership Academy (HCLA) in Katy, Texas. This pilot proved invaluable to the continued revision of the BTL curriculum to fit the need of the juvenile offender.

Since that first project, BTL has completed 15 projects in three youth facilities in Harris and Ft. Bend counties, and over 300 youth completed the 12-week program. Through feedback from volunteers, juvenile probation staff, and professionals in the field of youth psychology, we continued to revise and edit the Study Guide and the delivery of the program, which works well in a residential youth setting.

The most recent revision of the BTL Youth Curriculum includes a professionally illustrated graphic novel and a study guide covering each topic of the curriculum. This novel, called “Makin’ It,” tells the story of Tony, a youth going through problems and issues similar to what the youth in the BTL program face in everyday life. The author is Kirk Blackard with illustrations by Ben Humeniuk. We tested this concept in the fall of 2012 and we are convinced that this material better relates the principles we teach to the youth participants. This revised curriculum is used at the Harris County Leadership Academy as well as in collaboration with mentors from the reVision program, a ministry for gang-affected youth and their families in Southwest Houston. Information about this collaboration and resources can be found at the partnership's website.

The Bridges To Life Youth Program takes caring adults into the youth facility to work directly with adjudicated youth in an effort to prevent them from committing further crime. The program has two main goals:  (1) To reduce recidivism (re-offending) rates of program graduates; and (2) To facilitate the healing process for victims and offenders.