Teen Reach to raise money, help elementary students

Blake Warman, City Editor

Teen Reach leader CJ Porter said he has big plans for the Charleston Teen Reach group as it begins a new year.

Teen Reach is a local summer and after-school program that provides public school children between the ages of 11 and 17 with different learning opportunities.

Porter, who oversees Teen Reach and has been working with children for years, said he is excited for the upcoming school year.

Porter said one of the group’s plans is a fundraising creation known as Campaign 330.

Campaign 330 is meant to raise money for fall, winter and spring after-school programs.

After Teen Reach opted for a grant, it only received half of the initial funds that it needed, so this campaign is looking to make up for that lost money, Porter said.

The goal is to have each organization, school, business or club that signs up raise $330.

All organizations that participate can raise the money however they please.

Local students spent a good portion of their summer working with local gardeners to create the Debbie Burdett-Dodd Garden.

This garden was dedicated to a Teen Reach supporter who died the previous year.

Porter said students do not need to worry about preparing for the new school year because they have Teen Reach to prepare them over the summer.

Porter said that with the group going on all year, the leaders have no breaks, and therefore they are constantly ready every year for new members.

Porter said the lifeblood of Teen Reach is community support.

“Teen Reach lives and breathes by donations,” Porter said.

These donations are shown in the form of the Salvation Army feeding the students dinner everyday and businesses such as Rural King donating cages for the garden.

Many supporters come by Teen Reach to teach the kids different activities as well. The Coles County Arts Council taught the students how to mold, heat and glaze clay to create pottery.

Porter said the children were also introduced to an Eastern student who taught them hip-hop dancing.

Eastern has many volunteers who go to Teen Reach for community service hours as well as to just support the group.

Porter said the combined monthly average of volunteer hours is somewhere between 2,000 to 4,000 hours.

“With Eastern students here, the children get to have positive reinforcement and positive role models to help reinforce social life skills,” Porter said.

He said everything Teen Reach does is based around the goal of getting students into college or some form of higher education.

“The best experiences are seeing kids go from non-passing to getting higher grades than before,” Porter said.

He said community involvement, positive reinforcement and positive role models are what successfully help the many kids at Teen Reach.

Porter said he is excited for the new year and the incoming students, and anyone interested in volunteering is welcome. The Teen Reach program begins at 3:30 p.m. every Monday through Friday and is located at 845 18th St. in Charleston.

Blake Warman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]