Starting Right Now helps teens overcome homelessness

A Tampa outreach program is helping to hope to homeless teens.

For Samantha Haapa, seeing the new academic room at the Starting Right Now training center is a welcome sight.

"I wouldn't have the opportunity that I have and I wouldn't be as focused as I am on my education if it wasn't for this program," she explained.

Samantha is one of many teens participating in Starting Right Now, which provides shelter and guidance to homeless high schoolers.  

"Things got so much better. My life just really turned around," said Samantha. "I actually graduated  high school with a 4.2 something GPA."

Starting Right Now provides love and discipline for teens so that they can blossom into good citizens.

Vicki Sokolik started this endeavor in 2007 and has helped more than 300 students graduate high school.

"We do everything from give them housing, to food, to academic support, to medical, mental healthcare and match them with a mentor," Sokolik said.

It seems to be working.

"One percent of our kids go to the military. About nine percent take vocational training and the rest goes to higher education, and we stay with our students until they finish their last education goal," Sokolik said.

For Samantha, it's a new home, and a fresh start.  

"They are my family. I believe that one hundred percent. The people that work in this office. The people that live in the homes they are my family," Samantha said.

She's now in college and wants to get into politics to help other students in her situation.

Starting Right Now just renovated a new 4,000-square-foot training center, thanks to Suffolk, a national building contractor.