Dear Friends,
A few highlights from a busy summer at FAMILYConnections!
Ready for Success
On Thursday, July 28th, 23 teens and their parents gathered at Columbia High School (CHS) to graduate from Cougar Prep, a four week high school readiness program for incoming freshmen.  Cougar Prep is a collaboration between the South Orange -Maplewood School District and The Loft, managed by FAMILYConnections, preparing 8th graders for the transition from middle school to high school.
"Cougar Prep is part of FAMILYConnections' ongoing partnership with CHS to provide teens with academic and life skills support" said Jacques Hryshko, FAMILYConnections' Executive Director. "Our graduates took part in academics with CHS teachers and life-skills training and recreation at The Loft. We congratulate them for a job well done and wish them well as they begin their high school careers."
FAMILYConnections operates four school-based programs providing on-site mental health counseling, life-skills training, prevention programming, academic & employment support, after-school enrichment and recreation in collaboration with school staff and community partners.
These programs sponsored summer programs helping teens prepare for the new school year:
  • The Loft (Columbia High School) - Cougar Prep, a high school readiness program for 8th graders
  • The Den (Bloomfield High School) - Keys to Success, a high school readiness program for 8th graders
  • The Space (Orange High School) - a transitional high school readiness program for 9th and 10th graders*
  • The Hub (Maplewood Middle School) - a summer enrichment program for students needing extra academic, emotional, and social support
*High School begins in 10th grade
All told, more than 100 students benefited from these programs.
Operation Veterans to Social Workers (OVSW) Intern Honored
The NJ Healthcare Foundation awarded Master Sergeant (Ret.) Rod East, the 2016 Amster Bornstein Veterans Award for Humanism.  Rod is one of FAMILYConnections' OVSW interns providing counseling to veterans suffering from PTSD, anxiety, sexual assault, and other traumas.
Rod was recognized for his "wonderfully grounded and calming presence and his ability to provide compassionate care to his clients."
Rod served in the US Air Force for more than 20 years, with assignments in Korea, Turkey, and throughout the US.  He did tours in the Middle East, with his primary work in anti-Terrorism and Force Protection.  He had the opportunity to provide on-the-ground support for convoys of Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfiel, President George Bush, and President William Clinton.
Retiring from the Air Force as a Master Sergeant after 23 years, Rod enrolled in Rutger's School of Social Work.  His OVSW internship has enabled him to use his military experience to provide mental health services to veterans in a culturally sensitive and appropriate manner.
Congratulations Rod!
FAMILYConnections Helps the Department of Children and Families (DCF) Celebrate a Decade of Excellence Serving New Jersey
On July 22nd, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) celebrated 10 years of service to NJ families.  DCF was created by NJ state lawmakers as NJ's first Cabinet Level Department to improve the lives of the state's most vulnerable children and families. Today, DCF has approximately 6,600 employees and serves nearly 100,000 women, children, youth and families in any given month.
FAMILYConnections has had a longstanding relationship with DCF which provides funding for many of our programs, including our Reunity Houses, Outreach to At-Risk Youth (OTARY), HomeSafe and School-Based Programs.
We are very proud of this relationship which continues to grow and we thank everyone at DCF for their dedication and support of the children and families we serve.
Highlights from the celebration included a song sung by Louisiana Macenor.  She is enrolled in OTARY - our group based youth counseling program to prevent teen pregnancy, violence, gang involvement, and other high risk behaviors. Congratulations on a job well-done!
It's All About Her Clients
A special thank you goes to Jennifer Unger, our Program Coordinator of Adult Substance Treatment Programs.  She recently spent a Sunday afternoon bringing two of her clients and three of their children to a local Back to School event.
"The two mothers and three children who I brought could not have been happier," says Jennifer.  "As each child walked out with their personal shopper wearing new shoes on their feet and a new backpack on their back, holding a bag of notebooks, pencils, and supplies, the smiles could not have been wider!"
Thank you Jennifer for your passion - spending your Sunday making their day!
Jennifer has been a FAMILYConnections clinician for three years.  She oversees our StrongMothers, StrongFathers and Outpatient Substance Abuse programs.  All three programs help people recover from substance use disorders on an outpatient basis through counseling and other activities so they can better cope with life's challenges.

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