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TeenPride Pushes For Funding From Morristown and Morris Township

Volunteers make a case for more money at council and township committee meetings.

The message at last month's Morristown Council meeting  was the same one delivered a few weeks earlier Morris Township Committee meeting. The TeenPride program wants to offer more services and programming for the area youth and needs the financial help of the governing bodies to do so.

TeenPride, Inc. strives to help young people improve their lives by providing activities and free individual, group and family counseling, so they may build self-esteem and self-reliance and practice healthy lifestyles.

Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Kathleen Hyland, said that despite being a former mayor of Morris Township and a board of education member for three decades, nothing has been as rewarding as being a part of TeenPride.

“I have a passion for it,” Hyland said told the Morris Township Committee. “It is a diverse group.”

Hyland noted that approximate 33 percent of the teens that participate in the program are from Morris Township, less than ten are from Morris Plains and the rest are from Morristown. But those demographics aren’t what is important.

“The percentage, isn’t that important because they all go to school together. They all play sports together. They are our future,” Hyland said. “I would not be here after 23 years if I didn’t believe this was worthwhile.”

Hyland said that TeenPride has a 24-hour counseling service and although they get far less referrals from the police as they used to, they still have a lot to accomplish.

“We really stop a lot of the problems that might exist,” Hyland said. “It really helps our kids. We used to say at risk, but all of them are at risk.”

In her presentation to Morris Township, Hyland asked that the funding for the program remain flat and that the committee not consider “cutting back.” In Morristown, Hyland said they were looking for an additional $25,000 to restore them to the funding levels they were at a few years ago.

“I wouldn’t be standing here asking you to fund something I don’t believe in,” Hyland said.

Former guidance Morristown guidance counselor and current TeenPride counselor Ralph McCabe said that kids coming to TeenPride face significant challenges.

“Half of the kids are coming out of a home where there is a divorce and living with all of the stuff that goes with that. Abandonment, anger, loss,” McCabe said. “27-33 percent of them are growing up with a drug or alcohol dependent parent.”

McCabe said the reality is an awful lot of kids are dragging themselves out of “some difficult stuff and its real hard to be focused on English and interested in math when they have all of this stuff swirling around. 

Jose Acevedo, another retired Morristown guidance counselor working with TeenPride, said that he exists to help with the students who do not connect to their guidance counselors and work on positive things.

“Career, future, college and what is next,” Acevedo said. “I don’t deal with the truancy. I don’t like my dog, my cat, my mother my father. I don’t deal with that. I help the student focus on what they are proficient in. What they are good at. My role as I see it in TeenPride is to help the students and get them to come to me and I speak to them about their academics.”

Vice Chair John Barr said TeenPride is moving aggressively to bring new people and expand programs.

“Those who support TeenPride are getting huge bang for the buck. Very little money goes into administration,” Barr said. “I think you have a sense of the dynamism that is taking place in the organization. We are expanding services when finances permit.”

The Morris Township Committee said they plan to “continue a dialogue” on the topic of finance, as there were concerns about balancing and subsidizing between the three communities.

The Morristown Council also planned further review of the finding proposal. 

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