ROSELLE, NJ - Under Governor Murphy’s proposed budget for the 2021 fiscal year, Teen Guide Zone, a youth services program based in Abraham Clark High School, would be defunded.

Abraham Clark High School houses one of four programs run through Trinitas Regional Medical center, the other three operate in Elizabeth high schools. Agnes Brophy, the Director of Teen Guide Zone, said that the staff anticipated cuts but was prepared to keep providing virtual services to the students.

“What we do is so needed,” said Brophy, adding that the Children’s System of Care program is no replacement for the work they do because it doesn’t actively seek out kids in need. “Kids aren’t going to reach out, they usually get brought to us by a teacher or a friend who has participated in our programs in the past.”

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They host discussion groups for students who are dealing with similar issues like relationships and bullying where conversations are entirely student directed. Outside of the mental health services that Teen Guide Zone provides, they also take a hands-on approach when it comes to helping students navigate the college admissions process.

“Our students are often first generation,” said Brophy. “The college admissions process is very complex and overwhelming for students and families so we set up an area called the college corner” where each staff member helps a student with a different aspect of their application, whether it be essay, financial aid or deciding where to apply.

Teen Guide Zone helped students prepare resumes and paperwork for the HBCU college fair after Brophy said a lot of students expressed interest. Brophy encourages those who can to participate in a virtual rally Wednesday at 4 p.m. hosted by the Union City High School program to demand funding from state lawmakers. Friday, students and activists will be rallying in front of the state house for a reversal on these proposed budget cuts.

A petition started last week by a high school counselor in Brick, N.J. calling for the N.J. Dept. of Children and Families to restore funding has already received over 26,000 signatures.