News and Information

Youth Leaders Revitalize Bound Brook Park

Student AmbassadorsA group of teen leaders, called the 4-H / Middle Earth Student Ambassadors for Community Health, are working to improve their local community this summer. During the month of July, the youth are completely revitalizing Maltex Park, located at the corner of Vosseller and West Main Streets in Bound Brook, which has been neglected for years. They will unveil their hard work on August 3rd, inviting the public to a neighborhood block party at the park from 12 to 3 p.m.

The Student Ambassadors are cleaning and landscaping the park to make it beautiful with bright pops of color. The Bound Brook Garden Committee had already created a community garden in the park, allowing residents to raise their own vegetables in a rented plot. The youth are adding herb boxes and a vegetable stand to enhance this service. They are planting two peach trees and several raspberry bushes that anyone visiting the park may pick for free. The Student Ambassadors are also installing a grill, benches, picnic tables, and a Little Free Library, which encourages children to share books. Sweet Reads, a local nonprofit that distributes books to children in underserved communities, is donating the books for the library.

“It's an incredible task the Student Ambassadors have undertaken for their 2019 project,” said Abel Gomez, Bound Brook Councilman. “Working with the Community Garden group, the Student Ambassadors are transforming an underutilized space and revitalizing it into an amazing park filled with art, story boards, and a community garden where people and students want to come, stay and reconnect with the space. It's great to see everyone getting involved in the revitalization of our community.”

To improve street safety at the park, the youth will be painting a street mural and colorful crosswalks, which research has proven to slow drivers down. The teens are also installing a beautiful patterned pathway from the park’s street entrance to the community garden. To serve other Bound Brook youth, the Student Ambassadors are offering classes at the park during the month of July, such as food tasting, arts and crafts, and yoga.

“I am super excited for this project!” said Surya Pillai, a member of the 4-H / Middle Earth Student Ambassadors for Community Health. “The park used to be a staple in the community but became run down over time. Bringing it back, I think, is definitely going to impact the community in a positive way!”

To further unite the Bound Brook community, the Student Ambassadors are creating a “Story Book Trail” leading to the park. The trail is a series of twelve 3D butterfly sculptures designed and painted by New Jersey artists. Each butterfly features a metal podium containing a portion of a story about Maria the Mariposa discovering her life’s purpose. The story is written in both English and Spanish and was illustrated by one of the Student Ambassadors.

The butterflies represent the rebirth of the park and the metamorphosis of the community of Bound Brook. To continue this theme, the park is being renamed Mariposa Park. The artists for four of the butterflies were chosen by the trail’s sponsors: the Bound Brook Arts Council and three redevelopers improving downtown Bound Brook, the Capodagli Charitable Foundation, Deutsch Family Holdings LLC, and West Main St Urban Renewal LLC. The artists will paint the butterflies in front of the public at Bound Brook’s Food Truck Festival, which takes place on July 13th at Billian Legion Park.

As a culmination of the project, the group of teen leaders is inviting the community to attend a Grand Re-Opening of the park on Saturday, August 3, 2019 from 12 to 3 p.m. The students will unveil their finished work and host a neighborhood block party for all to enjoy!

The Student Ambassadors were chosen for this initiative through a grant from New Jersey Health Initiatives (NJHI), which seeks to empower young people to learn about issues that affect their community and to utilize tools and support systems already in place to make a difference. Somerset County 4-H, a youth development organization, and Middle Earth, a youth support and mentoring nonprofit, partnered to advise and coach these youth. You can follow the work of the Student Ambassadors on Facebook @BBSACH or Instagram @bb_sach.

The summer’s project is the result of months of hard work. These youth have collaborated with Bound Brook’s Town Council, Recreation Department, Garden Committee, and Department of Works to plan the renovation of the underserved park. They chose this project to promote unity in the community, healthy living for residents, safety for younger children, and revitalization of the surrounding neighborhood.

This project not only helps the youth realize that they can make a real difference in their own community, it teaches them valuable skills that will help them become the next generation of leaders in Somerset County. The program instills skills in leadership, business, government operations, problem-solving, teamwork, and creativity.

To learn more about Somerset County 4-H, visit: somerset.njaes.rutgers.edu/4h/

To learn more about the NJHI: Next Generation Community Leaders initiative, visit njhi.org and participate in the conversation online with the hashtag #NJLeaders2030. In 2030, the youth participating in NJHI: Next Generation Community Leaders will be 29-31 years old, poised to expand their impact as effective leaders, and one election cycle away from meeting the minimum age requirement for a U.S. presidential bid.

About New Jersey Health Initiatives: New Jersey Health Initiatives is the statewide grantmaking program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Established in 1987 in honor of the New Jersey philanthropic legacy of RWJF's founder, Robert Wood Johnson, NJHI supports innovations and drives conversations to build healthier communities through grantmaking across the State of New Jersey. To meet the many health needs of our state's diverse populations, regions and communities, the NJHI program encourages collaboration across sectors to foster deep relationships committed to long-term change affording all New Jerseyans the opportunity to live the healthiest life possible. Learn more about NJHI at njhi.org, and follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/NJHI_ or on Facebook at facebook.com/newjerseyhealthinitiatives.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the largest private foundation in New Jersey and the nation’s largest philanthropy working to improve the health and health care of all. The Foundation is striving to build a national Culture of Health that will enable all to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. RWJF has invested more than $1.2 billion in New Jersey since 1972. For more information, visit rwjf.org/nj. Follow the Foundation on Twitter at rwjf.org/twitter or on Facebook at rwjf.org/facebook.


College Readiness Program Awards Scholarships; Enrolls High School Seniors in College

Scholarship WinnersMiddle Earth, a nonprofit serving youth, is pleased to announce the most recent success of its Youth College Readiness Program (YCRP), whose purpose is to reach students in Bound Brook who ordinarily would feel that college is not a possibility and teach them how to make post-secondary education a reality.

Ninety-five percent of high school seniors participating in YCRP during the last school year are enrolled in a university or college in the upcoming Fall semester. Six of the graduating seniors received Middle Earth YCRP scholarships to assist them with college related expenses.

“It is really amazing to see these students, some who have been in the program since their freshman year, make it to this point,” said Jack Teter, YCRP Project Coordinator. “Our scholarship recipients have been incredible leaders in Middle Earth, their school and their community. I know they will use these scholarships to make the most out of their college experience.”

The students enrolled in YCRP face a variety of struggles, including financial difficulties and being the first person in their family to graduate high school. While each of them desire to attend college, the obstacles to that dream often seem insurmountable. YCRP helps them identify and address those obstacles, clearing the path to a brighter future.

YCRP offers participating youth academic support, college tours, career breakfasts, ACT/SAT preparation, parent workshops, guidance on the college process and financial aid, and community service opportunities to build their resume for their college applications. During the 2017-18 school year, Middle Earth’s YCRP helped a total of 46 students prepare for college. When students in YCRP reach their senior year in high school, the program helps them to complete and submit college and financial aid applications.

Middle Earth also awards scholarships to the top seniors in the program. This year, Luis Enriquez and Alison Bermudez each received a $1,000 scholarship. Miguel Santiago and Julian Jimenez both received a $500 scholarship. Edwuin Jimenez and Irma Cruz were the recipients of a $250 scholarship. All six winners will be first generation college students in their families, and previously felt very uncertain that they could get ever into college. YCRP helped them to overcome their obstacles.

Luis Enriquez, a four-year YCRP participant, is the recipient of the Middle Earth STEM Scholarship of $1,000. Luis has been an outstanding addition to the program, committing himself to regular program days as well as community service events such as the Coat Drive, Middle Earth Door Decorating Contest, and the 4-H Fair. Luis is also a leader outside of YCRP, participating in Varsity Soccer and Varsity Track as the Track Team Captain. Luis will attend the New Jersey Institute of Technology in the fall in pursuit of a degree in Architecture, which he plans to use to make designs that will help improve his community and make it safer.

Alison Bermudez, who has been in YCRP since 2015, is the recipient of the Middle Earth Excellence Scholarship of $1,000. Alison has been one of the most enthusiastic members of YCRP, and her humor and energy have positively influenced both her peers and other extracurricular endeavors. As president of the Bound Brook Drama Club, Alison worked with her fellow students to win $10,000 dollars to improve Bound Brook’s production of The Addams Family, in which she also played a major role. She is vice-president of the National Art Honors Society, and is the marketing director of the Debate Club. Alison will attend the University of the Arts in Philadelphia in the fall, in pursuit of a degree in Art Education.

Miguel Santiago, a YCRP participant since 2015, is one of the recipients of the Middle Earth Achievement Scholarship of $500. Miguel has taken the lead in representing YCRP at a New Jersey City University award ceremony, as well as through his leadership in events like Relay For Life. At Bound Brook High School, Miguel has also distinguished himself in the role of Class President for 4 years, as well as through his roles on the Student Council, Drama Club and Cheerleading. Miguel is planning to become a Trauma Nurse, and will be attending the Raritan Valley Community College Nursing Program in the fall.

Julian Jimenez, a program participant for 2 years, is one of the recipients of the Middle Earth Achievement Scholarship of $500. Julian is one of Middle Earth’s brightest students, and has been a valuable part of the program both because of his commitment to attendance and his stellar academics. Julian is a member of the French Honors Society, and has taken several Advanced Placement classes. Julian will attend Rutgers-New Brunswick in the fall to obtain a degree in computer engineering.

Edwuin Jimenez, a 3 year program participant, is one of the recipients of the Middle Earth Recognition Scholarship of $250. Edwuin is an intelligent, intensely committed learner, ranked #4 academically in his class. Edwuin also finds time to participate in a variety of activities, including National Honors Society, Varsity Track and Field, and Peer Leadership. Edwuin will pursue a degree at the Rutgers School of Engineering in the fall.

Irma Cruz, a YCRP participant since her freshman year, is one of the recipients of the Middle Earth Recognition Scholarship of $250. Irma is a role model for other students, not only in her academics and extracurriculars, but also in her extensive service to her community. Irma participates in a church youth group, is a 4H Students Ambassador for Community Health, and has been a part in both the Student Council and National Art Honors Society. Irma will attend Raritan Valley Community College in the fall with a focus on fashion merchandising.

Over the summer, Middle Earth continues to connect with all of the college-bound students, teaching them organizational strategies, time management skills, how to access college resources, and budgeting for their first year of college. In addition, YCRP staff will help the youth choose and register for their Fall semester classes. Each YCRP program participant that attends college will receive follow-up from YCRP for their entire freshman year. Staff will support and guide them through any issues they may have to ensure that they successfully complete their first year in college.

“Having been a part of interviewing the scholarship candidates the past two years, there are two things I am positive of. One, each one of these students is more than deserving, and two, it is extremely hard to make the decisions!” said Kristin Antico, a member of Middle Earth’s Board of Directors. “The personalities and individual stories these amazing kids share with us is something to be humbled by, and I feel honored to be a part of it. Congratulations and best of luck to each one of them!”

Middle Earth has been serving Somerset County for 45 years. The nonprofit offers local youth a safe environment where they can use their free time constructively, engage with caring adults who listen, obtain help with homework, prepare for college and/or future employment, participate in fun group activities, and volunteer for community service opportunities. Their programs offer mentoring and teach positive decision making skills, acceptance of consequences for their actions, and leadership skills, as well as basic life skills such as budgeting, cooking, and obtaining a driver’s license. All of their programs guide youth in learning respect for themselves and others and choosing positive alternatives to gangs, drugs and crime. For additional information about Middle Earth, call 908-725-7223.


Bound Brook Youth Leaders Consider Community Health Issues

Health Initiatives PanelsA unique collaborative project is underway in Bound Brook, NJ. A group of teen leaders is on a mission to improve the health of their community. And they are going about it in a novel way.

Through a grant from New Jersey Health Initiatives (NJHI), these teens are preparing to be future leaders as they address health issues in Bound Brook. This youth-driven undertaking seeks to empower young people to learn about issues that affect their community and to utilize tools and support systems already in place to make a difference.

Somerset County 4-H, a youth development organization, and Middle Earth, a youth support and mentoring organization, are partnering to advise and coach these youth. The group’s first mission was to identify health needs in the community. Through brainstorming sessions and access to a community health survey, these young people quickly narrowed their focus to two relevant topics: street safety and mental health. Panels of experts were invited to speak about the topics on two separate evenings, while youth members prepared questions, discussed strategies and learned how to organize such events.

On the evening of the mental health panel, representatives from several active mental health organizations in the area spoke. Sue Ferrante and Lorrie Baumann of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Candace Deglon of ANEW Wellness and Chair of the Mental Health Subcommittee for Healthier Somerset Coalition, and Brett Peppe of Richard Hall Community Mental Health Center gave excellent synopses of mental health challenges they see the community facing. They addressed suicide, domestic abuse, substance abuse, depression, bullying and ADHD/ADD as possible project topics. The stigmas associated with anything mental-health related were discussed at great length, and the idea of a mental health fair to showcase resources available to the community was floated.

The street safety panel included Police Chief Vito Bet, Town Council Member Abel Gomez, County Planner Walter Lane, and Gerry Montague from Ride Wise, a non-profit dedicated to finding transportation solutions and solving related infrastructure issues. One idea from this panel that excited much interest was a community bike-share initiative.

Interestingly, the young people felt that by securing a safer street environment they would also be affecting the mental health of the entire community. They felt that this would free them to pursue more targeted mental health initiatives in the future. Youth members are still in discussion about which topic they will choose.

Once the group decides on its topic, they will spend the next several months planning and beginning implementation of their big project, which will culminate in July 2018. Of course, these great kids are being encouraged to participate in leadership workshops, camping/bonding expeditions and various community service events. Along the way they will hopefully become a cohesive group and have a lot of fun!

To learn more about Somerset County 4-H, visit: http://somerset.njaes.rutgers.edu/4h/

To learn more about the NJHI: Next Generation Community Leaders initiative, visit njhi.org and participate in the conversation online with the hashtag #NJLeaders2030. In 2030, the youth participating in NJHI: Next Generation Community Leaders will be 29-31 years old, poised to expand their impact as effective leaders, and one election cycle away from meeting the minimum age requirement for a U.S. presidential bid.

About New Jersey Health Initiatives: New Jersey Health Initiatives is the statewide grantmaking program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Established in 1987 in honor of the New Jersey philanthropic legacy of RWJF's founder, Robert Wood Johnson, NJHI supports innovations and drives conversations to build healthier communities through grantmaking across the State of New Jersey. To meet the many health needs of our state's diverse populations, regions and communities, the NJHI program encourages collaboration across sectors to foster deep relationships committed to long-term change affording all New Jerseyans the opportunity to live the healthiest life possible. Learn more about NJHI at njhi.org, and follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/NJHI_ or on Facebook at facebook.com/newjerseyhealthinitiatives.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the largest private foundation in New Jersey and the nation’s largest philanthropy working to improve the health and health care of all. The Foundation is striving to build a national Culture of Health that will enable all to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. RWJF has invested more than $1.2 billion in New Jersey since 1972. For more information, visit rwjf.org/nj. Follow the Foundation on Twitter at rwjf.org/twitter or on Facebook at rwjf.org/facebook.


Stationhouse Adjustment Program: Making a First Youth Offense the Last Offense

An Effective Intervention Faces Growing Demand
By Christine Hons & Maria Strada (op-ed submission)

Did you know drug and alcohol related offenses are the most common among first time juvenile offenders? As the U.S. opioid epidemic surges, more and more teens are getting in trouble with the police for abusing drugs. In 2016, 61% of youth referred to the Middle Earth Stationhouse Adjustment Program were referred for drug and alcohol related offenses, a 24% increase over the previous year.

In Somerset County, Middle Earth’s Stationhouse Adjustment Program (SHA) provides mandatory community service to first-time juvenile offenders who commit minor (petty) offenses, as a consequence for their behavior. There are two main goals in SHA: 1) deter youth from continuing their negative behavior and progressing further into the juvenile justice system, and 2) identify the needs of the youth and his/her family to refer them to additional support services to address the negative behavior’s root cause, such as mental health issues, socioeconomic instability, housing problems, and substance abuse.

This has been a very effective program through the years helping to divert youth away from the justice system and back on a positive life path. When we are able to prevent a youth from developing into an adult that engages in illegal activity, we are saving taxpayers almost $55,000 per year (the average annual cost per inmate in New Jersey according to the NY Times, May 2016). Some organizations estimate that it costs $90 per day to house a juvenile in a detention facility.

Somerset County residents can be especially proud that Middle Earth’s SHA Program has successfully helped teens avoid entering the juvenile justice system, both at the time of their initial offense and subsequently. Over the last 5 years, 94% of Middle Earth’s SHA participants did not commit another offense within six months of finishing the program.

Youth are referred to Stationhouse Adjustment Program from local police departments or courts in any of Somerset County’s 21 municipalities. Currently, Middle Earth’s SHA Program is funded through the New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission and supplemented through a participant sliding scale fee system. We cannot and do not deny program services based on a participant’s ability or inability to pay the supplemental fee.

Middle Earth’s contracted funding for 2016 was sufficient to serve 35 youth but our organization served 119 youth through this program. So, there is a financial gap.

We are expecting the number of referrals to grow as drug cases continue to skyrocket. If substance use and abuse in our community is not addressed through early intervention among adolescents, it can lead to severe consequences and long term dysfunction for adults. In January 2017, 46% of federal inmates serving time were doing so because of drug offenses, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

We, at Middle Earth, are proud of our SHA Program successes, as well as the youth we work with that ultimately make the decisions and do the hard work to become successful. We believe this productive, and ultimately cost-saving, program needs more widespread support and understanding than it currently receives. You can help by contacting your local government officials to let them know that you support and value the Stationhouse Adjustment Program and would like to see its funding increased. You can also directly support the program by donating to Middle Earth (visit MiddleEarthNJ.org). Investing in youth now ensures a better community for all of us in the future.

Christine Hons, MSW, LSW, is project director and Maria Strada is executive director of Middle Earth (MiddleEarthNJ.org), a youth services nonprofit that for 45 years has worked with middle school and high school youth during their out-of-school time. In 2016, Middle Earth served almost 1,000 youth through 12 mentoring, education, and employment readiness and college readiness programs.


Afterschool Program Provides Employment for Former Students

When Miguel was only 11-years-old, he began attending an afterschool program called the 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC). The program is administered in Bound Brook by Middle Earth, a nonprofit that has served youth in Somerset County for over 40 years. The program gave Miguel an alternative to staying home alone, while his parents worked. Now, five years later, he is employed by the same afterschool program as a ‘High School Helper,’ giving back to the community that once helped him.

“Middle Earth helped me come out of my shell,” Miguel said. “It also gave me opportunities that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise, such as public speaking, going on trips, and making friends. Middle Earth teaches us life lessons that school doesn’t, and no one can take that away.”

The 21st CCLC supports the academic, behavioral, emotional and social growth of 4th-8th graders. As part of the 21st CCLC, Middle Earth developed ‘High School Helper’ positions to provide older teens with paid employment experience that stands out on their resumes and college applications.

“Middle Earth has given me leadership opportunities. Being a High School Helper has been a great experience and never feels like work,” said Erin, another Helper who enjoys working with the children. “In the future, I hope to attend college to study art education.”

High School Helpers assist Club Leaders within the classroom, provide supervision to students, act as mentors to younger students, and provide homework assistance and tutoring. The job provides them with an income and real employment skills such as teamwork, respect for supervisors, conflict management, and problem-solving. The younger students really look up to the High School Helpers.

“What is great about the High School Helpers is that almost all of them were once in the 21st CCLC program themselves, so they can really connect with the young students in the program now,” said Maria Strada, Executive Director. “High School Helpers have to complete an application and do an interview, just as they would for any other job opportunity, which provides them valuable experience in obtaining employment.”

Young students in the afterschool program are offered a wide array of activities, such as academic assistance, character education, educational field trips, health information, and many cultural and artistic opportunities. Many of these students transition to other Middle Earth programs as they enter high school, such as Community Youth Centers or the Youth College Readiness Program (YCRP). They can also apply to become High School Helpers when they are 16-years-old.

Alison joined Middle Earth’s afterschool program when she was a student in middle school and later participated in YCRP. Now a High School Helper, she believes that Middle Earth has helped her prepare for the real world and learn to interact better with people.

In fact, many of the High School Helpers state that Middle Earth has helped prepare them for a better future. In addition to giving them employment experience, Middle Earth arranges college trips and fairs, teaches independent living skills, and informs youth about options for their future. Wendy shared that her favorite memory with Middle Earth was touring John Jay College of Criminal Justice because that is the field she hopes to pursue. Miguel said that originally he didn’t think he would ever be able to go to college, but Middle Earth changed his mind. Now, he hopes to attend a business college to become an accountant.

“Middle Earth has not been just a program to me, but more of a family,” said Camila, another Helper who originally attended the afterschool program in middle school. She believes that the program helped her learn to manage her time more efficiently and develop into a responsible young adult.

Research shows that children who participate in afterschool programs are more likely to improve their grades, behave in school, develop better social skills, refuse alcohol and drugs, have higher self-confidence, avoid criminal behavior, and have higher aspirations for their future. This certainly seems to be the case for the teens now employed as High School Helpers.

“Middle Earth gave me a sense of reality and purpose,” stated Wendy. “(They instilled in) me the potential and motivation that I did not know I had within myself. Middle Earth provides us with a home, especially to those of us who aren't as fortunate as others.”

The Middle Earth afterschool program was funded in its entirety with federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended by No Child Left Behind, Title IV, Part B, 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) grant funds through a grant agreement with the New Jersey Department of Education.


Filmmaking Workshop Engages Creativity of At-Risk Teens

“Quiet on the set!” was announced, and the room fell silent. The camera and sound equipment operator pressed ‘record,’ and the second cameraman directed the clapperboard to signal it was time. “Action!” was called, and the scene began.

This might sound like a scene from Hollywood, but it actually took place in Bound Brook and all of the actors and production operators were teens who attend the Bound Brook Community Youth Center run by Middle Earth, a nonprofit serving at-risk youth.

Middle Earth’s Art House exposes teens to the arts to teach them to express themselves with confidence. By engaging youth during after-school hours, the probability of youth taking part in risky behaviors decreases. Research shows that arts exposure helps youth improve academic performance, self-esteem, and many other positive skills, such as persistence, collaboration, creative thinking, motivation, and problem solving.

The Art House Film Project collaborated with Phil Puzio, volunteer and Filmmaking graduate from Montclair State University, to educate 24 youth in the process of filmmaking. The teens invested a lot of their time and energy every Monday and Wednesday at the youth center for several months.

The students decided to reproduce Star Wars Episode IV: Cantina Scene. Youth learned what elements were involved in the pre-production, production, and post-production of filmmaking. In addition, the project helped youth to exercise focus, employ memorization skills, build quality relationships with adult mentors, and collaborate with peers of diverse backgrounds and interests.

Youth chose the roles they wanted to learn during production, including: set designer, sound recorder, camera operator, special effects make-up specialist, 2nd unit camera operator, and actor. Phil provided the workshop with quality camera, sound, and lighting equipment.

The youth transformed the Bound Brook Community Youth Center into a high-tech film set in April 2015. Youth hung up muslin from ceiling to floor, moved furniture, and rigged lights, camera and sound equipment. Production ended the first week of May, and the teens were able to view a rough cut of the film.

Participants in the Art House Film Project were enthusiastic after completion of filming. Youth reported that they had new understanding of the film making process, gained new skills during the project, felt more confident about themselves, and found the workshop “enjoyable” and “helpful.” When asked about their favorite part of the film project, one youth responded, “being able to learn more about special effects make-up,” and another youth responded, “I like acting.”

Click here to see the final edit of the reproduction of Star Wars Episode IV: Cantina Scene. The public is also invited to see their film during the Arts on Division Festival, which takes place in downtown Somerville June 19-21. You can find out more about the art festival at ArtsOnDivision.com.

Middle Earth is a nonprofit that has served youth in Somerset County for over 40 years. Middle Earth’s programs offer local children a safe environment where they can use their free time constructively, engage with caring adults who listen, obtain help with homework, prepare for college and future employment, participate in fun group activities, and volunteer for community service opportunities. Their programs teach positive decision-making skills, acceptance of consequences for their actions, and leadership skills, as well as basic life skills such as budgeting, cooking, and obtaining a driver’s license. Middle Earth also provides parents, teachers and other adults, information on a variety of teen issues on their blog, http://middleearthnj.wordpress.com. All of their programs guide youth in learning respect for themselves and others and choosing positive alternatives to gangs, drugs and crime. For more information about Middle Earth, visit www.middleearthnj.org or call 908-725-7223.


Middle Earth is Recipient of the Economic Vitality Award and an Impact 100 Grant

We are pleased to announce that Middle Earth has received two wonderful awards from two different distinguished organizations.

Founded only three years ago, Impact 100 (impact100gardenstate.org) is a unique organization of women dedicated to improving the lives of New Jersey residents by supporting nonprofit organizations that serve Morris, Passaic, Somerset, and Sussex counties. Each member contributes $1,000 to membership and the entire amount funds grants for worthy organizations voted upon by the members. Middle Earth was honored to receive an $85,000 grant to support our “Big Dan’s Bike Shop” program aimed at teaching bicycle mechanics, business operations and employment-related skills to at-risk youth.

The Somerset County Business Partnership (SCBP) recently announced the recipients of the 2014 Economic Vitality Awards, and Middle Earth is honored to be a recipient. Non-profit recipients have demonstrated a record of significant impact on the quality of life of the targeted constituency and the County in the areas of growth of constituency served, innovative programming, and contribution of volunteer base. The Economic Vitality Awards will be presented at the Somerset County Business Partnership Annual Meeting on Monday, December 15, 2014 at the Palace at Somerset Park, 333 Davidson Avenue in Somerset, New Jersey.

Thank you to Impact 100 and SCBP for their support!


Online Resource for Parents of Teens

Bridgewater, NJ – Middle Earth, a nonprofit organization that has served local youth for almost four decades, is offering an online resource for parents, teachers and other adults working with teens and pre-teens. The agency is writing a weekly blog that discusses a variety of adolescent issues.

Middle Earth’s blog, which began one year ago, can be found at http://middleearthnj.wordpress.com or through the Middle Earth website. The topics are thoroughly researched, provide the latest information and trends, and list several resources for obtaining help. Topics cover a wide range of teen issues, including stress management, nutritional information, gangs and crime, dating, building confidence, school issues, drugs, volunteerism and community service, sex, communication skills, anger management, and safety.

“We are trying to identify common issues that parents face with their teens and provide the most recent information on that topic,” said Dan Puntillo, the Executive Director for Middle Earth. “One of our current entries covers money management for teens. If every teen in America was taught proper budgeting skills, the next generation would be more financially responsible than their parents, many of whom are suffering with massive debt. We simply want to offer and share as much information as possible to help every child get the support they need.”

Middle Earth’s goal is to help youth become responsible and productive adults. The nonprofit offers youth safe places to gather, caring adults to listen and to be good role models, community service opportunities, educational assistance, positive recreation, and life skills education. This blog is another extension of their services.

For more information about the agency, visit www.middleearthnj.org or call 908-725-7223.