Story and photo courtesy of John McDevitt/KYW News Radio 1060

It was a day of fun, education and inspiration for a group of court-adjudicated teenagers who spent the day at the Elmwood Park Zoo in Norristown.

A group of about 20 students from Glen Mills Schools — a residential facility for court-adjudicated youth between 12 and 18 — got off the bus and spent the day exploring what the zoo has to offer.

Many of them have never been to a zoo before — let alone one that offers zip lining.

Successful business owner Lance Bachmann, president and CEO of tech firm, sponsored the day because he was once in these teens’ shoes.

“I spent two years at Glen Mills — most people don’t know that,” he admitted. “So people are ashamed of that growing up as a kid. I always tell people I’m not ashamed of that at all. I had no control. I’m one of 14 children, grew up poor, single mother, abusive father — just not a good environment, and Glen Mills helped save my life.”

Bachmann told the kids to never let your past dictate your future — and he made his words a reality for one young student.

“One of you young students in this room are going to go to college for free next year,” he said to a surprised group. “I’m going to pay for the whole entire tuition.”

“Sometimes I feel that people can’t relate to what I’ve been through or going through right now,” said 17-year-old Corde Fitzhugh, “so it’s refreshing and heartfelt that someone who was actually in the shoes that I was in. And he is doing great and is giving me the hope that I can do the same thing — or even better.”

Fellow 17-year-old Semaj Richards was blown away by Bachmann’s generosity.

“I want to be that next man that actually do something for the youth that is actually going through what we went through,” he hoped.