An Aiken teen whose family has significant criminal involvement has been offered an opportunity to turn his life around, but he must leave them behind.


Michael Anthony Lee Miles, 19, pleaded guilty Thursday to his second offense of burglary in the third degree.


Miles has expressed a desire to improve himself, his attorney James B. Huff of North Augusta said. Huff added that his client knows “that if he follows his family, he will spend a lot of time in the penitentiary.”


According to testimony in court Thursday, Miles' mother “has an armed robbery record” and has been unemployed since 2004. He has two brothers, one who has made a success of himself; however, the other, according to Huff, is serving a 25-year sentence in the South Carolina Department of Corrections.


“He, quite honestly, wants to leave his family behind him,” Huff said.


Looking to punish, but also give Miles incentive to turn his life around, a judge ordered Miles be in jail for a short time, before he is taken into the South Carolina SC STRONG program.


“I will accept the plea as I think it is appropriate,” Circuit Court Judge Tommy Russo said. “I hope you will take advantage of this opportunity. And it is an opportunity.”


Miles' sentence is a Youthful Offender's Act sentence of up to six years in custody, suspended on the 11 months he has spent in jail since arrested and five years probation. If accepted, he will be entered into the STRONG (Sustaining, Teaching, Rebuilding Our New Generation) program. If the defendant successfully completes the program, the balance of probation will be terminated.


However, if he fails to complete the program, he will have his probation terminated and he faces the prison term of up to six years.


S.C. STRONG is a peer-driven program that espouses a “philosophy of 'each one, teach one,' and provides residents with the opportunity to maximize their ability to make a successful transition into society.”


Located near the former naval base in North Charleston, residents must commit to a minimum of two years.


Prior to graduation, residents earn, at least, a GED and three marketable job skills at no cost to them. SC STRONG residents learn construction, catering, landscaping and furniture restoration. Their work will generate income to support the program's activities.


According to the program, SC STRONG residents have previously renovated two properties at the Navy Yard and are working on a third. These buildings, historically the Officer's Quarters, are the residences of program participants.


In addition to working and studying, residents are encouraged to help their new community.


“Our residents offer volunteer services to help organizations such as the Friends of the Library, Lowcountry Orphan Relief, Seacoast Community Church Clinic and the Lowcountry Foodbank,” a representative of the program said.


SC STRONG is a South Carolina nonprofit corporation with its own board of directors.