This article was written by LIZ BATESON. It was posted on NBC 10 NEWS on August 4th, 2023
(WJAR) — A Newport man who found healing and hope through a non-profit program during his teenage years is now returning to the organization as a full-time employee.
Boys Town, a non-profit located in Portsmouth, gives at-risk youth a chance to turn their lives around. The Portsmouth campus has five family homes where children age 10-18 live and receive in-home family services and community support services.
The kids learn social, emotional, and independent-living skills that help them find success in their school, community and beyond.
James Hackett lived on campus for 11 months as a teenager.
"I didn't really know what to expect. I was about 16-17 when I came here. It was pretty scary," said Hackett.
Hackett was adopted at three weeks old and lost both of his parents by the time he was a pre-teen. From there, he was in and out of group homes until he eventually settled down in Boys Town.
"You're taken away from a home that you're really familiar with. You're taken away from friends that you really connect with or adults that you have a positive influence with. Then you're being brought into a home where you don't know anyone," Hackett explained.
Hackett says there was a big learning curve when he first arrived.
"As an adolescent who didn't listen to rules that well because I didn't have a good upbringing, why would I want to listen to anyone, especially people that are not my family?" he explained.
But over the course of nearly a year, with persistence and love from the Boys Town staff, his walls started to come down.
"Your behavior starts changing because your family teachers are teaching you and loving you," Hackett recalled.
Now a decade later, he's returning to campus as a full-time employee. Hackett currently works as an assistant family teacher, helping kids develop healthy social and emotional skills.
He says he's able to pull from his own experience to move the next generation forward.
"These kids don't have families or are taken away from their families. I know exactly what that's like. I can relate to them in a positive way. Instead of saying I understand how you feel, I can actually understand how they feel," Hackett explained. He added, "Making sure the kids know that they're cared for and loved, that's my main job."
Hackett says it was important for him to give back to the organization that changed his life. He credits Boys Town with the success he's been able to achieve over the last 10 years.
"Because of Boys Town I was able to graduate. Because of Boys Town I was able to find my faith and have more positive influences in my life rather than being a kid lost in the system," Hackett explained.
To watch the full interview, click here.