Press Releases

Sixteen at-risk youth celebrate one year of stability and new beginning

Youth members of Community Access Unlimited marked one year of stability and new beginning at a recent celebration.

Young people living within New Jersey's child welfare system face daunting odds – often moving from foster family to group home to support program yet never finding their place, sometimes traveling with their belongings in a plastic garbage bag.

"The analogy is not lost on them," said Tanya Johnson, senior assistant executive director, youth services, at the nonprofit Community Access Unlimited, which supports youth served under the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to enable them to live independently in the community through housing, training and education.

This week 16 at-risk youth who have found their place at CAU celebrated one year of stability and new beginning.

Sign Up for E-News

Youth are referred to CAU from DCF or the New Jersey Division of Children's System of Care. They are provided housing and support services, including life-skills training in areas such as money management, food shopping and housekeeping, career planning and job placement; education; leadership development; and advocacy and outreach, according to Johnson.

"Together with them and their families we design a program with goals driven by what they want to achieve and we sculpt a plan to help them," she said. "It is a very intense program. We measure their goals quarterly to ensure they are making progress toward stability."

Casandra Jeffers, 20, and Tyshaun Williams-Jones, 19, are two youth who came to CAU 12 months ago who have found just that.

"I'm so happy here," said Jeffers, who was living in an adult shelter in Newark before coming to CAU. "When you're growing up in shelters, it's good to come to a program like this. The members treat you like family. You have a beautiful apartment at low cost. You have a counselor who helps you budget your time and helps you reach your goals. There's a lot of love here."

Williams-Jones was living in a group home in New Brunswick before coming to CAU. Now he lives in an apartment with three roommates and works at CAU on the janitorial staff. Since becoming a CAU member he said he has defined short-term and long-term goals.

"I'm planning on getting a car and going to college," Williams-Jones said. "We have a group here and they bring in someone to talk about college so my long-term goal is to go to college for clothes design."

Barshay Stinson (spelling?), who has been a CAU member for three years, spoke to the group of one-year celebrants about how he has grown. Stinson has been president of CAU's Member Action Committee for three terms and has traveled throughout the Eastern United States speaking to youth services professionals advocating for other youth.

"This program definitely gave me a higher reach in life," he told them. "When I came here I didn't have friends, I had just lost family members and was lost myself. Coming here I met people and gained friends. There are a lot of things this program has done for me."

Community Access Unlimited is a statewide Union County-based nonprofit providing support programs and services to adults with disabilities as well as at-risk youth to enable them to live independently in the community, providing support in areas including housing, vocational skills, and life-skills training, education, advocacy and recreation.


About Community Access Unlimited

Community Access Unlimited (CAU), celebrating its 39th year in 2018, supports people with special needs in achieving real lives in the community. CAU provides support and gives voice to adults and youth who traditionally have little support and no voice in society. CAU helps people with housing, life skills, employment, money management, socialization and civic activities. CAU also supports opportunities for advocacy through training in assertiveness, decision-making and civil right. CAU currently serves more than 6,000 individuals and families, with the number served growing each year. For more information about CAU and its services, contact us by phone at 908.354.3040, online at or by mail at 80 West Grand Street, Elizabeth, NJ 07202.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Three School Buses Involved in Crash at Clark's ALJ High School

June 21, 2018

CLARK, NJ — Three buses collided in the Arthur L. Johnson High School parking lot around noon on Thursday in a chain-reaction crash. 

Students were on board at the time, according to Police Chief Pedro Matos. One driver and two students had minor injuries, Matos said.   

According to a Honeywell alert issued by the Clark Public School District, ...

2018 Cranford High School Graduation

June 22, 2018

CRANFORD - It was a beautiful day as the members of the Cranford High School Class of 2018 took their places on Memorial Field for the Graduation Ceremony on Thursday night. 

Class President Anna Kalafatis, Principal Mark Cantagallo, Superintendent Dr. Scott Rubin, Board of Education President Kurt Petschow, Jr., Salutatorian Emily Wilson, and Valedictorian Meg Cui each ...

Cranford High Senior Prom

CRANFORD - Cranford High School held its Senior Prom on Friday at the Birchwood Manor in Whippany. Check out the photos our readers submitted. 

Spring Art Show Displays Students' Creativity

CRANFORD - The Cranford High School Spring Art Show was held at the Cranford Public Library, on Tuesday. 

From 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., artwork from classes such as crafts, graphic design, photography, and drawing was on display for the public to promote the creative and unique projects done by students throughout the school year. 

Sports Betting Is Off And Running in New Jersey

June 14, 2018

OCEANPORT, NJ — Governor Phil Murphy officially ushered in sports betting in New Jersey when he made the initial wager at Monmouth Park  on June 14.

Governor Murphy, an avid soccer fan who has called ESPN’s “Sportscenter” his favorite show, placed the first bet  — $20 on Germany to win the World Cup. He also bet $20 on the N.J. Devils to ...

Wardlaw+Hartridge Class of 2018 Graduates at Commencement

June 24, 2018

EDISON, NJ -- Wardlaw+Hartridge School in Edison held its 135th Commencement Ceremony on Friday, June 8 under a giant tent on the back athletic fields.

The Class of 2018 marched in, led by valedictorian and class president Suraj Chandran of Edison and vice president Cathy Bi of Edison carrying the class flag. The program began with the Star-Spangled Banner and a welcome from Dr. Bob ...

Healthy U Spring Symposium Marks 10 Years of Community Impact

WESTFIELD, NJ — More than 100 Healthy U champions and partners from YMCAs and schools from all over the state gathered at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford on May 18 to celebrate 10 years of community impact. Healthy U was also formally presented with the 2017 CATCH® Award for Excellence in State Health. 

CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) is the ...

Summer Water Safety Tips

Summer is a great time for parents to ensure their children are equipped with essential water safety skills. The Westfield Area YMCA offers weekly swim lessons all summer long and in Monday-Thursday weekly sessions.

Drowning is the second leading cause of death for children ages 5-14. Remember these tips to ensure the water is an enjoyable and safe place to ...

'Half Time' delivers with sterling cast

MILLBURN, NJ – The Paper Mill Playhouse is putting on a smashing new production of “Half Time” to round out its current season.

With actress Georgia Engel in an engaging performance, the cast also features Donna McKehnie, Andre De Shieilds and Lilias White, among a host of other talents.

The musical centers on an effort to have seniors perform a dance number during ...

'Half Time' lights up Paper Mill stage

‘Half Time’ turns the tables on aging in gleeful production

By Liz Keill

MILLBURN, NJ – The Paper Mill Playhouse is putting on a smashing new production of “Half Time” to round out its current season.

With actress Georgia Engel in an engaging performance, the cast also features Donna McKehnie, Andre De Shieilds and Lilias White, among a host of other ...