CAMDEN, N.J., -- This month, after conducting Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) questionnaires with 31 teens in its StreetLeader program, UrbanPromise (UP) discovered that 42% had more than 4 ACEs, the level at which risk for substance abuse, chronic disease, and difficulty sustaining employment in adulthood markedly increases. More than 70% had 3 or more. ACEs include physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, as well as family dysfunction such as witnessing domestic violence and incarceration of a family member. Research shows a strong correlation between the number of ACEs a person experiences (maximum 10) and, when not adequately addressed, increased risk for disease, disability, and early mortality (www.acestudy.org).
Working in Camden, known as one of the poorest and most dangerous cities in the United States, UP has been working with teens for more than 25 years. Unique to their work, UP is committed to training and employing local teens, known as StreetLeaders, to mentor and tutor younger children in the community. Outcomes have been outstanding, with a 100% graduation rate and 93% college attendance rate. However, UP recognizes the significance of ACEs in the lives of Camden’s youth and since 2012, has been integrating wellness programs that address these stressors.
“It was sobering to learn that for children and teens at UrbanPromise, scoring 4 on the ACEs questionnaire was not the exception, but the norm,” expressed Rebecca Bryan, NP, Director of the Wellness Center at UP. “We cannot reasonably expect that children growing up with this level of exposure to traumatic stress will somehow achieve the same level of well-being as those who are raised in a less stressful environment. We need to provide resources and support that will help them to address and manage their ACEs.”
With a grant of $30,000 from The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, UP will expand its work by testing a total of 90 teens, providing those with the greatest need with professional counseling, and incorporating an organization-wide resiliency curriculum that will provide all teachers and program directors with the resources they need to help students combat ACEs on a daily basis. “We are delighted to support UrbanPromise,” said Jonathan R. Pearson, Executive Director of The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey. “The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey is dedicated to supporting charitable organizations making an impact in the lives of people across New Jersey.”
About The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey
The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey is celebrating 10 years of serving New Jersey’s communities. The Foundation promotes health, well-being, and quality of life across our state by supporting charitable organizations. For more information about the Foundation, visit www.horizonblue.com/foundation.
UrbanPromise is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing children and youth with the support they need to succeed academically, grow spiritually, and prepare for leadership that will bring positive change to their communities. This is accomplished through after-school programs, summer camps, job training, two schools, experiential learning, and a host of other enrichment activities. To learn more, please visit www.urbanpromiseusa.org.