CHESHIRE -- Cole Stevens was struggling to keep focused and to do good things in life.

He and his family sought support through the Key Program Inc., an organization with a mission to "assist troubled youth and their families with developing positive life skills and life experiences so that they may pursue productive and rewarding lives."

Fortunately for Stevens, the program worked. The 14-year-old is now attending classes with his fellow eighth-graders at Hoosac Valley High School.

"My big problem was school, so I did what I had to do to get on the right path," Stevens said.

This included focusing on school work, learning to help others as a community volunteer, and finding positive outlets through community-organized football leagues and pick-up basketball games, as well as singing with the school chorus.

Stevens said he'd also like to see communities offer something like a "Sunday in the Park" activity program where young people could go to "get their mind off of what they weren't doing so well with and just have fun."

The student was nominated by educator Noelle Skowron to receive this month's S.A.Y. It Proud award, which was presented to the young man by Karen Cole of the sponsoring Pittsfield Prevention Partnership, during a small Jan. 24 ceremony at school with his teachers and family members.

Stevens credited a strong network of adults for helping him get back on track.

"It feels good, it feels awesome to have people there for me, specifically my dad and my grandmother, and my teachers in school," said Stevens, "I've been able to do what I do because I have people who help me out, who are always beside me and know what I'm going through."

The young man said his advice to other youths who might be struggling is to "keep their heads up high" and to "know there's people like them and there are always going to be people that care for them."

To reach Jenn Smith:
jsmith@berkshireeagle.com,
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On Twitter: @JennSmith_Ink