Wednesday, February 21, 2024

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Op-Ed: Local Teens Need Guidance, and We Can Give it to Them

By James Aumack

The story regarding the teens assaulting the seniors has made me think of ways to bring these groups together. There is a need in this area for young elementary and high school-age school kids to have something to do after school is over. Teens, in my experience, generally have great success working with younger children. 
 Where are the educators, the police, and church representatives? These kids need to have something to do that is in both their interest and in the interest of the larger community. Teens need to get a responsible job that they can do every day. As an educator, I faced this problem. But I lived in a very large city. I was able to get together with two clergymen who were interested in helping young people. 
Where are the local clergy and the police and educators? They should work together in respect to this problem with kids causing trouble with older people. 
 Here is what we did:
As an educator, I knew that there was ‘grant’ money available for worthy causes. Teens need something to do! They are smart, yet bored easily. They need to feel important and will do things that make them feel that way. They’re really seeking attention.
We organized an after-school/summer camp program that employed ‘worthy’ teens to help younger students with their schoolwork. They also listened to their personal problems as they grew up.
All of the teens experienced the same problems and had experience dealing with these feelings. They were employed by a non-profit corporation that we set up under New Jersey State Law. Because it was a ‘not for profit corp,’ we were allowed to apply for state grants for funding our project that helped elementary school children using high school and college students as teachers/tutors during the school year. 
In the summer, these kids continued with the program. They learned and reinforced what they learned via their teachers and tutors. 
The tutors were supervised and guided by certified educators. Both tutors and educators were employed by the non-profit corporation. The corporation was funded with an initial New Jersey Grant that totaled $195,000, and this was a continuing grant! 
As time went on, the grant increased in size and it included funding for a food program to feed the students a hot meal every night before they were brought to their front door by vans driven by teachers with type 2 N.J. drivers licenses. The vans (six of them) were also a result of  the grant.
We employed a parent that was unemployed to cook for 150 kids every day. This required a kitchen staff made up of high school and college students. Everyone was paid according to state law and salaries were minimum wage for high school students and college students were paid a small amount more per hour. Educators were paid a negotiated sum according to their degree and experience. All of our educators had a master’s degree or better and years of experience in the inner-city. 
 The result of all the above was that the younger children had someplace safe to be every summer day and after-school every day during the school year. The employed teens (high school and college) also had the very same schedule. Certified teachers were paid according to the average wage that the local Board of Education paid for after school activities, but they were not required to ‘know’ somebody to get the job. 
They were hired because of their talent and background. This grant continued for the next twenty plus years. Many of the little kids grew up and became teachers and some of their tutors later also chose teaching as a profession after college. 
 This could very well happen in Cape May County if someone has the ‘guts’ to take a chance and open up a non-profit corporation and seek state and federal grants for the betterment of our communities. There is a pile of money waiting for someone to ask for it at New Jersey Grants.com!
 Over its twenty years, this program brought into the community over five million dollars that benefitted young elementary school children, their tutors of high school and college age, and the professional staff. There is money sitting in Trenton waiting for someone to organize a project to benefit the community and its people. 
 I personally was the Educational Leader of this project. We operated in the deepest parts of the inner-city to provide some positive relief and assistance mostly to the one parent families that often exist today. These are the children that need the most care and direction.   If you put a team of quality educators together and write a grant proposal, you’re likely to be funded. 
You will need an attorney, and a state licensed and certified accountant. You also should organize as a non-profit corporation with a board of directors.  You should depend on your church people to form your board of directors and to give you direction. Your accountant should have experience with non-profit organizations. 
If you consider the above and follow through with a proposal, you’ll likely be successful. Don’t give up!

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