Six Mercer County organizations to receive Juvenile Justice Commission grants to expand summer programs for at-risk youth

The New Jersey attorney general announced on Thursday that the Juvenile Justice Commission has awarded grants totaling $233,000 to 14 organizations across the state, including six organizations in Mercer County, to expand programs for at-risk children and teens.

Officials said an additional 600 at-risk youth throughout New Jersey will be able to participate in various recreational, educational, and character-building activities being offered in their communities this summer as a result of these grants.  

The grants provide organizations already running successful summer programs for at-risk youth with up to $20,000 in additional funding each to enhance their programs or increase the number of young people they serve.

Funding for the grants comes from the federal Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention’s Formula Grants Program, which supports state and local delinquency prevention and intervention efforts and juvenile justice system improvements. The funds can be used to provide job training, mental health and substance abuse treatment, community-based programs and services, reentry/aftercare services, and school programs to prevent truancy. In addition to meeting other requirements for funding, grant recipients have demonstrated the capacity to host summer programs virtually, if necessary, or to provide programming to account for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The following programs will receive funding:

Trenton Music Makers (Mercer County, $19,907) – Trenton Music Makers will expand its program by engaging an additional 50 students. In addition, working with the Capital Area YMCA, Trenton Music Makers will use the grant funding to add an outdoor tented area where students can engage in their music study, and to add a hip-hop production and a choir to augment the existing conducting and percussion classes.

Trenton Circus Squad – (Mercer County, $20,000) – The circus squad will expand its summer traveling residences to provide additional services to Trenton youth including overnight accommodations at a university, as allowed under COVID-19 guidelines, college/career exploration, and access to a life/career coach.

Community Action Services (Rise) (Mercer County, $20,000) – The non-profit will develop a five-day teen youth conference to take place at a university or virtually, as required by CDC guidelines. Rise will serve an additional 12 young people in a variety of workshops to facilitate positive behavior, to deliver information on post-high school options and alternatives, and to provide information on peer voluntarism.

Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) of Mercer County ($8,588) – The CYO will expand its program to serve an additional 150 participants and provide additional recreational and educational summer camp experiences to young people. Collaborating with La’Keisha Sutton & Her Fan Favorite, LLC, the program will provide a six-week basketball clinic including skills, drills, and games, as well as discussions on healthy nutrition, education, faith, character, decision making, and leadership.

Prevention Education, Inc. (Mercer County, $19,993) – PEI will increase the number of participants served through its summer initiative/juvenile intense supervision programming for first-time youthful offenders, young people on probation, and at-risk youth in Mercer County. An additional 19 new young people will participate in the summer program which will include a new program module, “Connecting with Community,” that focuses on promoting understanding and building community.

Trenton Police Department (Mercer County, $7,446) – The police department will expand its current summer camp program, adding 15 more participants and integrating a police exploration, communication, and relations component. Programming will also be expanded into schools and to enhance partnerships with parent/teacher programs.

The Boys & Girls Club of Monmouth (Monmouth County, $19,650) – The organization will expand an eight-week summer program that provides activities and services, including mentoring, sports and recreation programs; access to computer knowledge; service and leadership clubs to an additional 25 students in Asbury Park, Neptune, and Long Branch.

The Camp Horizon Summer Learning Program (Gloucester County, $20,000) – The funding will allow 25 additional school-aged children to participate in a summer-long program that provides enrichment and physical activities. The program, in partnership with the Bullock Garden Project, will include an outdoor education and walking classroom to deliver a curriculum focusing on gardening, birding, botany, and climate.

The Center for Prevention & Education (Sussex County, $20,000) – Thr organization will increase the total number of 7th graders participating in its summer program from 40 to 50 participants. The program will also be enhanced by creating a Youth Task Force that will design, create, and deliver a local leadership conference.

The Hackensack Police Department (Bergen County, $19,501) – The police department will expand its annual police youth academy to include 35 additional participants. The program fosters a positive relationship between local youth and police. Instructors include local police officers, firefighters, and volunteers from Hackensack and the surrounding towns.

Jackson Township School District – (Ocean County, $18,204) – The school district will expand its summer learning to approximately 50 additional students for 15 half-days to recover core math and literacy skills through a STEM initiative that integrates social-emotional wellness activities. The expansion funds will also be used to purchase additional LEGO Mindstorms robots needed to successfully implement the program.

The Joseph Firth Youth Center (Warren County, $7,483) – The center will serve an additional 40 participants, with a focus on middle school youth (grades 6-8), and include four additional programming hours per week during the 10-week summer program. The Center collaborates with youth sports organizations to deliver the SPORT-Prevention Plus Wellness curriculum, combining physical activity and sports with healthy-living components, including diet, sleep, and stress control. It also incorporates content on the negative impacts of alcohol and drugs.

New Community Corporation (Essex County, $20,000) – The organization will expand its summer program that delivers hands-on STEM experiments, photography, music appreciation, Zumba, and art and crafts to allow 25 additional young people to participate. The length of the program will also be increased from six weeks to eight weeks, and three new components will be offered including digital music recording, robotics with emphasis on computer coding, and drama.

Roselle Board of Education (Union County, $12,815) – The school district will use the funds to add two guidance counselors to its summer program staff, enabling the program to serve an additional 150 participants, bringing the total served to 500. The counselors will work with students through a combination of classroom, small groups, and one-on-one activities.