In a pitch for more funding, Teen Pride Inc. pitched some impressive numbers at the Morristown council on Tuesday–and tossed in a bonus offer.
The nonprofit wants to create a summer recreational service to serve middle-school and high school students from Morristown and Morris Township, bridging programs offered by each municipality for its own residents.
“We just need to identify the right activity,” said Teen Pride Trustee Ron Goldberg.
Teen Pride was established 23 years ago to boost self-esteem of underprivileged adolescents through counseling and activities.
More than 300 teens made more than 3,000 visits to Teen Pride over the last year, according to Director Dan Levitt.
The nonprofit receives $55,000 a year from both the Town and Township and $200,000 from the Morris School District, along with donations, said founder Kathleen Hyland.
For 2014, the organization is asking Morristown to restore a prior funding level of $80,000, she said.
Although she has served as Morris Township mayor and spent decades on the school board, “I don’t think anything has been as challenging or rewarding as Teen Pride has been for me,” Kathleen told the council.
In the early days, 97 percent of the nonprofit’s clients were referred by police, Kathleen said. Now, only 3 percent of teens arrive that way.
“We get kids before they get into trouble,” she said.
Activities include indoor soccer, tutoring and sessions promoting social skills, self-respect and respect for others.
Teen Pride partnered with Arts By the People to enter a movie in the 2013 MorristownGreen.com Film Festival. Twenty teens attended a Thanksgiving dinner hosted by volunteers. Dan chaperoned five teens to see Christmas sites in New York; three of the youths never had taken a train before, he said.
When Teen Pride started, counselors made house calls. Then Morristown High School gave them a work space. Now, Teen Pride operates a center at 95 Spring Street in Morristown.
The center has 10 part-time counselors, and interns from area colleges, said Assistant Director Marlene Scrivo. Retired MHS guidance counselors Ralph McCabe and Jose Acevedo have played vital roles, Marlene said.
At first there were just two groups–one for boys, one for girls. Now there are nine groups, including Alateen and groups for immigrants and junior high school girls, Marlene said. The Jersey Battered Women’s Service is among organizations that send guest speakers.
Counseling for kids who dream of college is scheduled to start next fall.
“Many students are bright and capable, but feel they can’t go to college… Few have visited a college,” said Jose. He described his role as “holding their feet to the fire.”
The proposed summer recreational program, meanwhile, could test Teen Pride’s counselors in unexpected ways.
Morristown and Morris Township have a checkered record when it comes to cooperation. While they have managed well for decades with a shared school system and library, the wheels fell off a mutual busing program for seniors in 2010. Shared animal control services unraveled last year.
And it’s taken years for both sides to get serious about completing a James Street sidewalk to connect the municipalities.