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Our Story

Helping Kids Discover Their Potential for Over 45 Years

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There is potential born into every child and even troubled ones have the potential to become great people. For nearly 50 years, AMIkids has empowered 125,000 kids across the country to discover the potential within them to transform their lives and send them on the road to success.

judge In 1969, Judge Frank Orlando, Chief Juvenile Court Judge in Fort Lauderdale, was frustrated at seeing the same young men come before his court time and again. His only option at the time was to send them to what was then called reform school where they would stay for a time then end up right back in front of him in court. He knew from his own experiences as a camp counselor and teacher that, for these boys to turn their lives around, they would need more than to be simply locked away.

His determination to make a difference for the children who came before his court led him to contact a friend from high school and college, Bob Rosof. At the time, Mr. Rosof was the director of a research program in Boca Raton, Florida for Florida Atlantic University, called the Florida Atlantic Ocean Science Institute (FAOSI).

Judge Orlando saw an opportunity to send some of the boys he was seeing in court to FAOSI where they would be given the opportunity to work hard and be rewarded for their efforts and appropriate behavior. He asked Mr. Rosof if he would take a couple of boys into the program and put them to work on the research vessel. The staff at FAOSI provided role models for the boys and built relationships with them that helped them to see a different future than the one they were previously headed for. Mr. Rosof asked for more boys and, as a result of his and Judge Orlando’s initial experiment, today 125,000 young men and women have been given an alternative to incarceration through the programs of AMIkids.

From their early beginnings in Boca Raton, additional programs were added in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Jacksonville, Florida. As the organization grew, Associated Marine Institutes (AMI) was formed as a non-profit organization and more programs were added in Panama City and Dade County. Through the continued efforts of Judge Orlando and Bob Rosof as well as others including then Director of Florida Division of Youth Services, Olly Keller and Senator Louis de la Parte, residential programs were added as well as more structure educational components. Eventually, in 2009, AMI became AMIkids, highlighting the core value of putting kids first and better representing the wide range of services offered, far beyond original marine instruction.

Close to 50 years later, the experiment begun by two men to help kids has evolved into a national, non-profit leader in providing kids with a troubled past the guidance and support they need to discover their potential, strengthen their community, and make a lasting impact on generations to come. AMIkids’ unique combination of education, behavior modification, and treatment in a family atmosphere with caring staff help children with a troubled past turn their lives around to become productive citizens. Each of AMIkids’ programs has a local board of trustees made up of local community leaders who help to make their program make a difference in the lives of the youth they serve. AMIkids staff and board members work together to put kids first and make their communities safer by positively impacting as many youth as possible.

OUR MISSION — AMIkids is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping youth develop into responsible and productive citizens. AMIkids' mission is to protect public safety and positively impact as many youth as possible through the efforts of a diverse and innovative staff. AMIkids works in partnership with youth agencies, local communities and families.

OUR VISION — Separating a troubled past from a bright future.

OUR FINANCIALS — As part of our dedication to financial responsibility and putting kids first, the vast majority of our budget goes directly to program expenses. Our donors and supporters have comfort knowing that their investment goes to improving the lives of our kids and strengthening our communities.