The program is giving teens a second chance. (Photo source: WLOX)
BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) -
A garden in downtown Bay St. Louis is growing more than vegetables - it's growing self-esteem.
Ruth's Roots is an experiment that is helping young teens who got into trouble with drugs and giving them a new beginning.
Not long ago, 16-year-old Kevin was into the wrong thing.
"I got into some trouble with some friends. And it was a really bad mistake to do," said Kevin.
But right now, he's into plants - especially mint - and it's beginning to work.
"Before, I kind of felt horrible about myself because I knew I was doing the wrong thing. I didn't really want to be doing that. But now I actually feel pretty good. I feel amazing about myself."
The garden, a project by Hancock County Youth Court Judge Elise Deano, is a place where teens ages 13 to 18 can complete community services hours given to them for drug offenses.
"They're not the kids who get a lot of praise in school. They're not the kids who are super successful in school, and they get to be super successful here," said Deano.
Located right next to the Youth Court building, it's less than an acre of vegetables, chickens, and honey bees; all managed by the group. Deano and the teens began working on the project in fall, and the May 13 grand opening allowed residents to enjoy the fruits of their labors.
"These kids are learning that even where they are in their life, they're able to be a blessing or help to someone else," added Deano.
The program has made a big difference for 16-year-old Heidi.
"They helped me and pushed me. Even on my weakest days that I did not want to do anything. I still came out here and now, I actually got a lot better now," said Heidi. "I feel good about myself since I've been here. They helped me a lot. They helped me get back on the right road."
The garden project is named after the late Ruth Thompson, who owned the property with her husband and ran Ruth's Cakery. Deano says she is planning more events at the garden in coordination with Second Saturday.