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      Store of Hope helping DJJ youth turn their lives around

      Teenagers like Maximiliano Rodriguez are getting a second chance; thanks to the Department of Juvenile Justice's new Store of Hope.

      The store officially opened to the public on Wednesday. It is a new, youth-driven, enterprise program for teens at DJJ.

      "When I came here, people were telling me about how great it was. So I said I wanted to join", said Rodriguez.

      The Store of Hope aims to give teenagers experience in strategic planning, marketing/sales, customer service, communication,finance, and accounting skills.

      The program also gives young people a chance to sell products they created with the help of teachers like chairs, paintings, upholstered furniture, and other crafts.

      DJJ Director Margaret Barber said it gives them another way to express their skills in a more positive light; while also giving back to the community.

      "Where they have been painting graffiti on buildings, they paint beautiful butterflies on fabric. And we now want the public to see what they have done."

      Rodriguez said the teachers have helped him turn his life around.

      "We have someone to talk to. It is not just about what we are doing that day. It is about personal problems. I want to do the right thing and not do the wrong thing."

      Rodriguez is on the right track. He is already applying to colleges he wants to attend after he is released; including South Carolina, Coastal Carolina, and College of Charleston. He dreams of playing football.

      And with the support and experience from the Store of Hope; Rodriguez knows anything is possible.

      To learn more about the Store of Hope, visit www.state.sc.us/djj.