NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Now in its 17th year, the Summer Teen Evening Program (STEP) provides the community’s youth with a free and fun – yet safe, structured and supervised – way to spend their summer nights.
Open to residents 18 and under, STEP is held at North Plainfield Middle School on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 to 9 p.m. This year’s program kicked off June 28 and will run through Aug. 18; STEP will not be held on Tuesday, Aug. 2 but instead participants are encouraged to attend the borough's National Night Out celebration.
At STEP, participants have the opportunity to do crafts, play board games, and participate in friendly game of basketball, badminton and/or soccer matches while socializing with friends. Refreshments are also served and there will be special pizza nights. There is no cost and registration is not required.
STEP is funded by the Borough of North Plainfield’s Department of Recreation and conducted in conjunction with the North Plainfield Police Department as well as North Plainfield School District, which donates the use of the facilities each year.
The STEP program was founded back in 2000 by Joan Graham, a counselor for the North Plainfield School District for close to 30 years, along with North Plainfield Police Detective Eric Fowler and retired Detective Alex Kuga in an effort to provide the community’s youth with a safe place to spend their summer evenings.
“When we looked at the needs of the town we noticed many kids were hanging out on the streets at night because there was nothing for them to do in the summer. We wanted to find an alternative for them,” said Graham, who despite retiring this year plans to continue serving as program director of STEP.
These days, Graham and Fowler, along with Detective Albert ‘Tito’ Domizi run the program, with assistance from North Plainfield resident Rob Foote as program assistant. Both Fowler and Domizi serves as school resource officers, running the both the DARE and GREAT programs within the district.
According to Fowler, STEP offers the community’s youth a safe and secure place to hang out. “Instead of sitting in the house and watching TV or going out and getting in trouble, community youth can come here and hang out with friends,” said Fowler, adding that the program provides an opportunity for him, Domizi and Graham to interact with the students, out of uniform and in a laid back environment.
“We get to build upon the repertoire we established with them during the school year as counselors and police officers,” he said. “Kids are able to reach out to use in a positive way and we are here to talk to them and help them if they need us. They know that they can come here and that it’s a positive, safe place.”
STEP is open to all community youth 18 and under. No registration is necessary. For more information, contact Detective Domizi at 908-769-2971 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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