Imagining a better life: Danville program helping at-risk teens turn their lives around

Five teens participating in Project Imagine program


DANVILLE, Va. – For 18-year-old Zykuis Skipwith, starting the leaf blower he used while working in Oak Hill Cemetery Wednesday symbolizes the start of a new life.

"I wanted to do something because I got tired of getting in trouble," Skipwith said.

He is one of the first five teens to participate in Project Imagine.

The program gives at-risk teens a job to keep them away from the gang life.

"I was doing stuff, when I did it I didn't think about it. I really didn't care about the consequences or anything they did to me. I didn't really care," Skipwith said. "I jinxed myself when I was little, because I told myself I was going to do years one day. Then when I got older, I ended up doing three years at 14."

Project Imagine is the brainchild of Danville's Gang Prevention Coordinator, Robert David.

"I've got goosebumps to see that these young men are being empowered, to know that they are now becoming connected to the city and becoming a part of something greater than themselves, and most of all something greater than a gang," David said.

Alvis Williams is a life coach and has been working with Skipwith for about six months.

"He's taken more initiative to kind of implement some things independently; taken responsibility," Williams said.

The Project Imagine participants spend nine weeks working for a city department, making $10 an hour.

The money comes from the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act program.

Skipwith is working with public works.

On Wednesday, he helped clean up Oak Hill Cemetery.

"I've never experienced a job. That's the main reason why I like it," Skipwith said.

Skipwith and the other four Project Imagine participants started their jobs on Monday.

He said the first day was tough, but he was determined not to give up.

"Money. I love money," Skipwith said when asked why he came back after the first day.

He now hopes to eventually join the Army.

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