Highland Park’s Teen Center/Zone 6, located at 600 Benner Street, is celebrating its first birthday by giving the community a present – making a real difference in the lives of dozens of local teens. Led by Teen Center Coordinator Ashton Burrell, the center has lived up to its goals as stated at its opening last year.
The aim of the center is to provide a safe after-school space where Highland Park teens can socialize, use the latest technology to complete their homework and/or build their talents, and receive support as they explore work opportunities and educational possibilities. With an annual budget of $106,918, the Center is entirely funded by the municipality.
Activities over the past year included:
* In November, Zone 6 hosted a celebration of first time teen voters that was cosponsored by the Borough and the New Brunswick chapter of the League of Women Voters. The event featured an appearance by Congressman Frank Pallone.
* In April, the Center organized and ran a trip to the Rutgers University School of Business, providing 13 Highland Park teens (some with parents who did not attend college) with exposure to college life and the training needed to develop a business mindset. The participants got to explore these issues in a small group meeting with Professor Jeffrey Robinson and took a tour of the Livingston campus in Piscataway.
* In May, Zone 6 sponsored a ‘College Night’ at which three graduating Rutgers University seniors, Akua, Anna, and Rose (who all served as RU interns that semester in the Borough), offered practical advice on how to succeed socially and academically in the first year of college. The event attracted a sizeable crowd, both for the free pizza and the opportunity to hear from the three interns.
* In June, the Center offered Free Haircuts before the Prom, provided by professional haircutter Alteir Haskins, a HP HS alum who works in New Brunswick. A dozen teens came by for their cuts and arrived at the Prom looking sharp.
* Also in June Zone 6 held a graduation party for teens affiliated with Zone 6. The special guests were eight graduating seniors who all plan to attend two or four year colleges.
* Throughout the year the Center offered a free meditation class on Wednesday afternoons, led by experienced local teacher John Wenz. This class attracted five regular students and periodic visits by others.
Also notable were Zone 6 affiliated teens Josh & Jalen who, with Ashton’s coaching, established their own leaf-sweeping and snow-shoveling business, J & J Leaves, which got started in late fall. Another teen, Kazir, used Zone 6 equipment to record two audio tracks he wrote, as part of his exploration of a music career.
“I’m so encouraged by the series of activities at the Teen Center,” said Highland Park Mayor Gayle Brill Mittler. “The building of the Teen Center was spearheaded by Councilwoman Elsie Foster-Dubin, who saw a serious need for the town to provide the teenage children of working parents with programs that helped them to expand their horizons in a safe space. Through Ashton’s leadership, Zone 6 is realizing that dream and enabling our teens to see their future possibilities.”
Highland Park teens are welcome to visit Zone 6, meet Ashton, use any of the video games, and offer their ideas for Teen Center programs. The Teen Center is open Monday-Friday, when school is in session, 3:00 – 6:00 pm, and Monday – Thursday, 2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. when school is not in session. The Teen Center can be reached at 732/317-2477 and online at http://hpboro.com/index.aspx?nid=624