MIAMI - It is field trip day at Miami’s Gate program, a program run by registered nurse Mimi Sutherland for the past 18 years.
Seven young men going on the field trip to the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner's Office.
The students are non-violent juvenile offenders who have been referred to Gate by the Miami-Dade Juvenile Court.
In six months, Sutherland said she plans to give them a close look at the road they could be headed down if they do not make better choices.
"The concept is, I want them to see what a gun really does and show the concept that guns don't kill people, people kill people," said Sutherland.
Sutherland's program exposes the young men to the consequences of gun violence.
On their first day they create their own toe tags like the ones they put on bodies in the morgue, then throughout their time there the students see the toll gun violence takes on victims they observe the trauma room, visit rehab centers and attend sessions run by peer mentors.
Antonio Robinson, 18, came into the program with a gun charge, he says the peer mentors helped him find the motivation to want to do better.
"(To) keep myself on the right track, chose friends wisely and be a leader not a follower," Robinson said.
Marcus Fletcher, 15, has only been in the program two months and is already seeing improvements in school.
"When I started I had bad grades, now I have B’s and C’s," he said.
Gate is a Miami-Dade grant based program, the students are referred to them by Miami-Dade Juvenile Courts. She used to be a trauma nurse at Jackson Memorial Hospital and noticed that the victims of gun violence were getting younger and younger.
"When they kept coming back, I realized we weren’t doing anything but patch and mend and we needed to do something more," Sutherland said.
During the field trip to the morgue, Dr. Jackie Pender showed the students how autopsies are conducted and how they investigate the bodies to solve crimes and identify loved ones.
The smell got to many during the viewing sessions.
"It is something that they’ll never forget. It was scary. A life lesson of where you will end up if you keep doing bad things you don't want to end up there," Fletcher said.
Rene Gamboa is another leader at Gate, he first heard of the program when he worked for Miami-Dade Juvenile services, he was always amazed that even after offenders completed the program they wanted to come back and help.
"The fact that they got to see these places without actually going through the consequences that may force them to end up here," Gamboa said.
Gamboa said the six-month time period lets the clients develop relationship with mentors and experts and they begin to trust and want to change.
Sutherland said she has so many graduates that are living meaningful lives, she knows that opening their minds and showing that you care is part of their success.
"No one can tell teens what to do, you have to let them experience the consequences of the choices they make," Sutherland said.
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