Rocky“I used to fight kids who had fathers because I resented that,” says Steven Escobar. “One day, after I got into another fight, someone called me Rocky. Now everyone calls me that.”

Bridging the Gap between Youth and Community Services® is a 12-week Salvation Army life-skills court-diversion program. Most program participants are referred by the courts, a school official or a probation department. Adolescents who have been arrested for the first time can have their offenses dismissed by successfully completing the program.

Rocky’s path to the program was slightly different.

“A friend of mine had been referred to the program when I was 16,” says Escobar. “He invited me and I came. I’ve been here ever since.”

Rocky is now 22 and smiles as he describes his first appearance at The Salvation Army in Attleboro. “I mirrored what I saw on the street. I mirrored the gangs. I had the saggy jeans, the hoodie, the dew rag, the whole thing.”

Not long after Rocky met Reverend Dan Dore, Bridging the Gap Director, his life took a sudden turn. He got a job and a quick promotion to assistant manager. He turned in his gang wardrobe for suits, a practice he keeps today. He is enrolled at Bristol Community College and hopes to follow in Reverend Dan’s footsteps by pursuing a degree in psychology.

“I think Reverend Dan built Rocky,” says Manny Owusuh, a current student. “They are on the same page.” Rocky regularly volunteers as a mentor at the program that influenced him.

“I’m impressed,” Bristol County District Attorney Tom Quinn says he’s a fan of the program. “I think we’re all better off if these young people can learn basic skills and find a path toward a positive future.” 

A banner in the Bridging the Gap classroom proclaims “Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes.”  Rocky is living proof that lives can change if intervention comes at just the right time.