Changing the Lives of At-Risk Teens Through Innovation

Transforming Lives with Innovative Education

Project LIFT is dedicated to improving the lives of at-risk teens and their families through treatment of substance use disorders, mental health counseling, mentoring, and vocational skills training like welding, auto repair, HVAC, carpentry & construction, and more while earning their Penn Foster High School diploma.


Penn Foster High School graduation rate from Project LIFT*


Program graduates have found employment through local Project LIFT partners


of Project LIFT participants show improvement in workforce readiness

Holistic Approach with Transformational Impact

Project LIFT, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of at-risk teens and their families through treatment of substance use disorders, mental health counseling, mentoring, and vocational skills training, has grown exponentially since opening its first location in Palm City, Florida in 2010. To expand its lasting impact on participants and communities, Project LIFT utilizes: Penn Foster’s Online High School Diploma program, close local partnerships for experiential learning, and community funding streams


“At our heart, we are a mental health and substance abuse treatment organization, and the vocational training is the vehicle that we use to enter into that teen's life,” says Lauren Adrian, Chief Impact Officer at Project LIFT.


Many of the young participants at Project LIFT are referred to the program by court order or school. These participants are often at risk of, or already are, facing challenges including involvement with the juvenile justice system, family functional issues, anxiety, or anger management.


According to Project LIFT, it costs $21 a day to aid in rehabilitating at-risk youth using their innovative combination of mental health services and vocational training compared to $209 a day if the child were in a juvenile detention center. By providing a more effective, and budget-friendly rehabilitative alternative, Project LIFT plays a crucial role in redirecting the lives of these young individuals while reducing the burden on the juvenile justice system.


Penn Foster High School plays an important role in this process. Explains CIO Lauren Adrian, “The Penn Foster program is a second chance for young men and women who have not been successful in a traditional academic environment because of poverty, family dysfunction, mental health issues, substance abuse.”

Sustainable Funding Strategies for Community Growth

In 2018, Project LIFT received $100,000 from an IMPACT 100 grant, which allowed them to launch a high school pathway program with Penn Foster entirely funded by community philanthropy. Since enrolling their first Penn Foster High School student, Project LIFT has graduated more than 150 students with accredited high school diplomas and applicable skills needed for a dignified career in skilled trades.


Through their Pathway Academy of Innovation program, Project LIFT offers a hybrid education model with in-person instructors who guide learners through their online high school courses as they gain hands-on experience in skilled trades and work with licensed therapists to deal with the hardships that brought them to the program.


Jim Sloan, Pathway teacher at Project LIFT, explains that the Penn Foster program, “gives students the options and the ability to work around their needs. It's that ability to work as they can, when they can, it allows us to offer what works for them.”


As learners progress through Penn Foster, they work on their vocational training, counseling, and ultimately complete the LIFT program with employment or continued education opportunities on the horizon.


According to Lauren Adrian, “It’s about a full continuum: the therapist working with a student, the Penn Foster curriculum, the Pathway teacher, the trades, all of that. Once all the components are in place, many students graduate very quickly. Often they finish in three or four months, secure that diploma, and move right into the skilled workforce.”

Building Opportunity through Local Partnerships

Project LIFT operates on diverse funding streams across county, state and non-governmental organizations. By cultivating local grant opportunities, Project LIFT can secure the resources necessary to pursue a shared mission to strengthen the community.


Project LIFT CEO Bob Zaccheo brings the same passion for this program today as when he founded the organization in 2010, building relationships with local funders who believe in this alternative platform. With a constant stream of funding, Project LIFT can operate smoothly, achieve positive outcomes, and qualify for additional funding to grow their impact.


Project LIFT further engrains itself in its communities by partnering with over 100 local businesses for hands-on training, apprenticeships, and employment opportunities for participants. According to Project LIFT, 88% of participants, 18 or older, found employment with LIFT partners after program completion.


Project LIFT is committed to creating future leaders in their communities. LIFT’s focus on mental health, education attainment, and vocational training means that 93% of participants show improvement in workforce readiness. Glen, a Project LIFT graduate (who came to the program with substance abuse and academic struggles) is now the owner of a successful landscaping company with 15 employees. His mission is to help kids in the same situation he was in find hope and a career path through Project LIFT.

Overcoming Barriers with Incentivized Progression

To complete the Project LIFT program, participants accomplish requirements beyond the classroom like therapy, service learning, vocational training, and substance abuse treatment, if needed Learners are motivated to complete their Penn Foster coursework so they can continue through the program and ultimately find employment in their trade of choice.


In Belle Glade, Project LIFT hopes to make an impact on intergenerational poverty by graduating students who may be the first ones in their family to secure a high school diploma. “The biggest thing is that sense dignity and accomplishment,” shares Pathway teacher Jim Sloan. “For a lot of them, it’s just realizing that they can actually get their diploma.”


Across all locations, LIFT provides participants with a stipend for the work they complete while on site if they test clean for drugs and alcohol. 97% of Project LIFT members completed the program drug and alcohol-free last year. This incentivized progression provides dignity and motivation for continued success.*

Transformative Impact on Lives and Communities

Project LIFT, in partnership with Penn Foster and local skilled trades businesses, makes a difference in the lives of participants and their communities at large. Casey, a LIFT graduate, explains that Project LIFT, “provides learning experiences to people who wouldn’t usually get those learning experiences.”


Casey speaks about people like Joshua, a Project LIFT participant, who found the program after he was expelled from high school. “When I got kicked out of school, I could have gone down two paths. It just so happens I was put down the right path, at the right time… Project LIFT wants to make you be a better person.” Joshua recently became a part of Project LIFT’s incredible 93% Penn Foster High School graduation rate.*


Through hands-on learning, high school programming, dependable funding, and community engagement, Project LIFT continues to pursue their passionate commitment to improving the lives of at-risk youth.

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