Greater Newark Holiday Fund

Teen goes from isolated and shy to a group leader

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Robert attended FAMILYConnections Outreach to At-Risk Youth (OTARY) program for two years. When he began OTARY, he was shy, had difficulty making friends at school and was made fun of because of a speech impediment. As a result, he began to isolate himself. OTARY gave Robert the chance to talk and connect with teens his own age in a safe and respectful place.

The goal of the group-based counseling program for teens is to prevent pregnancy, violence, and gang involvement and other high risk behaviors. OTARY gives teens the opportunity to talk about topics that are important to them and to share their challenges while participating in recreational activities.

He shared meals with his group and enjoyed field trips throughout the year. He also enjoyed just hanging out with his new friends and talking about things that were important to them all. As time went on, Robert began to open up and share what was on his mind without hesitation. His OTARY peers and friends respected him and listened to what he had to say. Robert’s confidence grew stronger and he eventually became a group leader, encouraging others to think about the decisions they were making.

Robert graduated from high school. His goal was to attend trade school and he now is following his dream of becoming an electrician.

FAMILYConnections’ OTARY program strives to expose teens to opportunities that are not otherwise available. This includes expressive arts therapy, such as dance, drumming and painting. It also includes trips to places such as the African-American Museum in Philadelphia and the Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience program at Mt. Allamuchy. Funding from the Greater Newark Holiday Fund can help provide these types of opportunities.