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When you stop and take a look back at your first car there is an undeniable nostalgia. It’s the sound of the engine or maybe the weight of your foot as it pressed down on the gas pedal. Perhaps it was that unforgettable “new car” smell.

For many teenagers there are few memorable accomplishments more important than getting their first car. The excitement of independence and the acknowledgement of responsibility are etched in our minds. For two of the young men at the Boys Ranch, their hard work and persistence has paid off and they are beginning the journey to self-reliance with their very first cars.

For a lot of us a car might not mean much more than a way to get from point A to point B, but for these young men it is a well-earned reward for their dedication to their jobs and diligent budgeting. Maybe more importantly than that, for Craig and Jacob, two of our graduating seniors at the Boys Ranch it is an opportunity for learning and growth.

When you take ownership of your first car it’s easy to think of it as all fun and games. For Jacob it meant he would have his own means of transportation to his job in town at a local fast food chain. Jacob quickly learned being out on the road driving himself that he was not only responsible for the car’s upkeep and his own safety, but he was also responsible for the safety of his passengers and his fellow drivers on the road. “It’s a lot of responsibility.” Jacob said with a grin.

For our guys, the responsibility of car ownership started long before they ever put their foot to the pedal. Proper maintenance is one of the keys of responsible car ownership. Each and every day we are trying to prepare our Ranchers to be productive and self-sufficient citizens when they leave our campuses. As part of their vocational rotation in the automotive shop both Craig and Jacob learned the basics of car maintenance and upkeep including replacing a tire and changing the oil in their cars. “We learned how to work on a car before we ever bought a car,” Craig said as he was changing a flat tire on his 2008 Dodge Avenger. “It’s nice to know if something goes wrong I know how to fix it.” Craig, who plans on going to college and studying organic chemistry to pursue a career in the neurosciences field, sees his car as the icing on the cake for everything the Youth Ranches has done for him since coming to the Boys Ranch 5 years ago.

For Craig and Jacob, owning a car is a role that puts them in charge, helping to build a strong sense of self-reliance. It is an integral part of becoming a successful adult and both these young men are clearly on the road to success.

“We worked with Sheriffs Ranches Enterprises (SRE) to find cars that we could afford and would be reliable,” Jacob said, while showing off his 2000 BMW. “I feel proud knowing that I was able to save my money to buy this on my own. I feel like I’ve earned it.”

Both Craig and Jacob were successfully able to find reliable cars through SRE, thanks to the generosity of donors who gift their good-condition, pre-owned vehicles.

Sheriffs Ranches Enterprises has six locations throughout the state and an automotive sales lot at the Live Oak location.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2017 edition of "The Rancher" magazine. If you'd like to subscribe to "The Rancher", or learn more about what we do, call 1-800-765-3797, or email fsyr@youthranches.org.

If you'd like to invest in the future of the boys and girls in our care please click the button below.

Each summer, the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches gears up for a summer camp experience like no other. Our Youth Camps are able to give so many kids a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity they would normally not have access to. Camp is a safe place where kids can let loose and be adventurous, show initiative and build confidence. These benefits are a result of the core foundation that we teach at camp: teamwork, communication, cooperation and commitment. These are skills that will help them tackle any challenges that may come their way.

Those cornerstone beliefs open up our campers to countless benefits from their week at camp. We put together a list of the top 10 things camp can do for kids.

10. Become more confident by experiencing success – Camp helps children build self-confidence and self-esteem by removing the kind of academic, athletic and social competition that shapes their lives at school. With its noncompetitive activities and diverse opportunities to succeed, camp life is a real boost for young people.

9. Gain resiliency – The kind of encouragement and nurturing children receive at camp makes it a great environment to face setbacks, try new things and learn that improvement comes when you give something another try.

8. Spend their day being physically active – Since children spend so much time these days inside and mostly sitting down, camp provides a wonderful opportunity to move. Running, swimming, jumping, hiking, climbing and our exciting high ropes course are just a few ways our youth stay active at camp each day.

7. Disconnect from technology – When youth take a break from TV, cellphones and the Internet, they rediscover their creative powers and engage the real world— real people, real activities and real emotions. They realize that there’s always plenty to do and a great imagination can be their best tool.

6. Develop life-long skills – Camps provide the right instruction, equipment and facilities for kids to enhance their sports abilities, artistic talents and adventure skills. The wide variety of activities offered at our camp makes it easy for boys and girls to discover and develop what they like to do.

5. Become more independent – Camp is the perfect place for kids to practice making decisions for themselves. Children welcome this freedom to expand and blossom in new directions. Camp helps children develop who they are.

4. Have free time – Free from the overly structured, overly scheduled routines of home and school, life at camp gives children much-needed free time to just play. Camp is a place of carefree living where kids can relax, laugh and be silly all day long.

3. Reconnect with nature – Outdoor experiences enrich campers’ perceptions of the world and support healthy child development. Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches Camp gets kids back outside and in nature.

2. Learn social skills – Coming to camp means joining a close-knit community where everyone must agree to cooperate and respect each other. When they live in a cabin with others, kids share chores, resolve disagreements and see firsthand the importance of real communication, and teamwork.

1. Make true friends – Camp is the place where boys and girls can make their very best friends. Free from cliques at school, camp encourages our campers to relax and make friends easily. All the fun at camp draws everyone together—singing, laughing, talking, playing, doing almost everything together.

At the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches, we aim to touch and change the lives of young boys and girls across the state, and summer camp is one of the ways we can reach out to our communities and make a difference. For the children, it only seems like a week filled with fun and games, but what they don’t know is everything else that comes with it.

If you'd like to financially contribute to help us continue our summer camp programs please click the button below. Just select "Camp" from the Campaign drop-down menu in the online giving form.



At the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches we take pride in and work hard to honor our mission each and every day. There is no greater reward than watching one of our youth take our philosophies and exemplify and embody them beyond the Youth Ranches.

Recently, one of our students took the vision of the Youth Ranches to the actual mission field. For 17-year-old Ozzy, the opportunity to go to Haiti on a mission trip with the Journey Community Church was too powerful an experience to turn down. “The world is so much larger than his previous experiences,” Youth Ranch Safety Harbor Program Director Chuck Dietch said, explaining what a positive impact he thought the trip would have for Ozzy. “There is great misfortune in this world, but there are always opportunities to do good despite one’s circumstances.”

While in Haiti, Ozzy was a part of a team that helped work on much-needed space at House of Blessings. This is an orphanage in the city of Calebasse that is home to more than a dozen children in the mountains southeast of Port-au-Prince. Their mission is not just to care for children who have lost their parents, but to raise children to become Christian leaders who can have a big, positive impact on Haiti as adults.

The long days and hard work were tiring, but Ozzy wouldn’t change a thing. “Being over there taught me not to take things for granted,” he said. “A lot of those kids don’t even get to eat every day; some of them only once a week. Here, we get three meals a day and never think about what a big deal that is to someone else.”

Ozzy, who has a passion for service, has taken the message of his Haiti experience to heart. This past summer, he spent his days working with children at the Safety Harbor Community Recreation Center and he has continued working with the center in its after-school program. “Ozzy is a hard worker and is good with the younger kids in his cottage,” Dietch said, “so I knew he would do well on the mission.”

Ozzy and his siblings came to the Youth Ranches two years ago after a failed adoption. One by one, his siblings ended up being discharged from the Youth Ranches, but Ozzy was determined to stay. He was ready to make a change in his life for the better. “They offer so much here.” Ozzy said with sincerity. “I’ve been to other places. Nowhere is as good as here.”

When Ozzy arrived at the Youth Ranches, his grades were poor and high school had been rough for him, but now things are definitely looking up. “School is going great!” Ozzy said with a smile. “I almost have my GED and then I want to go to PTEC (Pinellas Technical Education Centers) and get certified to work in marine mechanics.”

When asked if he would consider doing more mission work, Ozzy’s answer was a resounding “Definitely!” “It was so different over there,” he said. “They had such a sense of community and unity. They definitely taught us more than we ever could have taught them.”

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2016 edition of "The Rancher" magazine. If you'd like to subscribe to "The Rancher", or learn more about what we do, call 1-800-765-3797, or email fsyr@youthranches.org.

If you'd like to invest in the future of the boys and girls in our care please click the button below.



Few things set up our young men and women for adulthood more than helping them learn to craft a strong work ethic. Work is one of the four pillars of our success plan, so it should come as no surprise that we place a high value on it. Work teaches a lot about responsibility. It teaches our students about accountability, the value of money, and the value of contributing. Choosing and applying for a job shows a commitment to employment that also helps teens build valuable time-management skills as they learn to balance multiple tasks, such as school, work, and social lives.

Each one of our students is required to work, and the campuses offer several onsite opportunities. These jobs allow the students to earn a paycheck while learning the value of time and money. They can receive raises for performance that exceeds expectations or they can be fired for poor performance. Just because these jobs are on our campus doesn’t mean they are any less important or any less real than ones beyond our borders. Our students are expected to treat these like real jobs, because they are.

While we have a structured work program, we also offer our students the opportunity to participate in vocational rotations. For one hour a week, for four consecutive weeks, our students can rotate through different career areas throughout the Ranch. They learn basic skills of each trade over the month and then they can move on to the next field. This is an ideal way for our youth to find job opportunities that suit their individual interests and skills. One rotation might involve students spending a month at the garage to learn about basic automotive maintenance, or at the cafeteria to find a flare for food or the hospitality industry. Rotations provide any number of exciting on-campus job opportunities to experience.

Some skills that can be learned include operating large equipment, like mowers, tractors, and vehicles. They can also find their calling with cooking and food management or horticulture and landscaping, recreation, agriculture, livestock, general maintenance, plumbing, and more. We have students who work at the local Sheriffs Ranches Enterprises Thrift Store, learning customer service and gaining valuable retail experience.

While building a strong work ethic is the primary goal, having jobs also helps students build self-esteem. Rotations help them become comfortable in a work environment so they feel less stressed about learning on the job in the workplace.
Our students develop a sense of responsibility as they become accountable for the work they produce. They learn to practice time management skills as they complete assignments according to deadlines.

Vocational rotation and daily jobs also help improve social skills, and teach students how to respond politely and efficiently to customers and the needs of their supervisor. Perhaps the most valuable asset is developing a sense of independence as students earn their own money, have their own work schedule, and balance their work and personal responsibilities.

A big part of the mission of the Youth Ranches is to develop resilient and productive citizens. Preparing them for the workforce will affect them now and forever. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to teach valuable life skills to the boys and girls we serve!





A wall is typically used to divide or keep things separate, but at the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranch in Safety Harbor, a wall is bringing the community together.

They say a picture paints a thousand words. The idea was to take a drab wall and paint it with a beautiful mural to tell a story all its own—our story. To accomplish this, the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches, Fit4Truth, the Safety Harbor community, and St. Petersburg mural artist Geary “Rasta” Taylor came together in a joint effort for an event called Painting with a Purpose. They set out with our kids, staff, and volunteers to paint a 150-foot mural on the west wall of the campus.

On October 1, several hundred people, along with the artist and our youth, came out for an all-day painting event. The community provided free food, as well as a bounce house and dunk tank that gave our students a chance to drop their favorite staff members into a tank of water. A DJ gave away prizes and there were enough fun events for everyone to have a great time between painting shifts.

Throughout the day, kids and volunteers took turns in a large-scale paint-by-numbers–style patchwork of images that, at the end of the day, came together to form a beautiful representation of life at the Youth Ranch and our mission. The bright and cheery mural depicts the journey and stories of the children living at the Youth Ranches.

The artist spent several weeks before the event on sketching out and designing what the wall would look like, using photographs from the Youth Ranches archives. He then created a plan that could be easily followed so the volunteers and our students could do the majority of the painting.

We caught up with Destiny, a budding artist herself, working on a panel depicting a child playing soccer. “I’ve been working on this one,” she said with a smile, paintbrush in hand. “This one is one of my favorites—I like to play soccer.” She paused and closely inspected what she was working on, comparing it with the template taped to the wall. “I love art and I love to draw,” she continued. ”Now we get to be a part of it and get to see it every day!”

Jacob, one of our own bright and cheery Ranchers, hurled a ball toward the dunking booth at the event, letting out a giddy laugh. He took us on a tour of the wall, pointing to all of the parts he had helped paint. His favorite is the vibrant red and orange sunset.

The mural, which was inspired by our “I am a Rancher” campaign, includes images that focus on the Youth Ranches four pillars of success; Work, Study, Pray, Play. The mural also features the Youth Ranches logo and includes iconic Ranch imagery, such as the statue at the Boys Ranch and youth in action.

Events like our wall-painting day, while beautifying our campus serve a greater purpose by bringing volunteers and donors together with the kids they help. We are greatful for our volunteers and donors from around the state and the communities surrounding our campuses.