Editor's Note: The following is a news release issued by Lawrence Township-based PEI Kids.
First or second time juvenile offenders, as well as the overall Mercer County community, will benefit from a $25,000 grant that the Office of Faith Based Initiatives (OFBI), a Division of Programs in the Department of State, recently awarded Mercer County nonprofit PEI Kids.
The grant will support PEI Kids’ overall efforts to keep Mercer County children, families and communities safe, in particular its Comprehensive Juvenile Offenders Outreach Services (CJOOS) program, which prevents gang participation and criminal behaviors; promotes self esteem and effective study habits; and provides mentorship, homework assistance and tutorial services to at-risk youth.
Geared toward Mercer County juvenile offenders aged 11 through 17 who are on probation for third and fourth degree offenses (87 percent of whom are already typically gang-involved), CJOOS' intensive 16-week curriculum redirects youth toward more positive pursuits.
Program graduates demonstrate greatly reduced recidivism (re-arrest), enhanced self-esteem, and increased communication, interpersonal and job readiness skills.
“We will use OFBI’s funding to help us strengthen the program’s educational and mentorship aspects, as well as PEI Kids’ collaborations with Trenton Central High School (TCHS), The Bonner Center for Civic and Community Engagement at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) and the Mercer County Juvenile Probation Unit,” explains Penny Ettinger, PEI Kids’ Executive Director.
“A seminarian from Princeton Theological Seminary will also participate as an advocate between students and teachers. Since 95 percent of our CJOOS kids reside in Trenton, we’re going to work even more closely with school contacts to ensure participants are attending school and engaged in their studies. PEI Kids’ staff and student mentors from TCNJ will be at TCHS twice weekly to provide onsite, after-school homework support, educational planning and positive role modeling - further expanding the program’s educational-focused goals, and enhancing its long-term effectiveness.”
Due to decreases in County and Juvenile Justice Commission funding, PEI Kids was forced to reduce its CJOOS program's service level in the past year. In 2013, the organization expects that at least 60 local youth will benefit.
About PEI Kids
PEI Kids’ aspiration for the children of Mercer County, NJ, is “Safe Kids, Sound Futures.” Currently serving approximately 16,000 children and their families each year, the nonprofit organization began in 1985 when, while working at a rape crisis center, its founders discovered there were no local services tailored for children who had been sexually abused.
For the past 27 years, its mission has been dedicated to promoting and maintaining a safe environment for all children. Its services have expanded to include engaging, developmentally appropriate and culturally diverse Prevention/Education and Intervention programs relating to personal safety; physical and sexual abuse; understanding physical and educational differences; school safety and bullying; anger management; gang prevention; and the overall well-being of the child and family. It is currently the lead agency of the Greater Mercer Coalition to Prevent Child Abuse.
To learn more about PEI Kids’ many programs and services for Mercer County children and families, and how you can support its efforts, please call 609-695-3739 or visit www.peikids.org. All calls regarding possible abuse are confidential.