Teen center receives $10,000 grant for after-school program

By: Kevin Bunch | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published November 24, 2015

 Volunteer Jo “Grandma Jo” Ciaramitaro shows off the kitchen at Eastside Teen Outreach, where she cooks meals for the kids who come by Thursday evenings.

Volunteer Jo “Grandma Jo” Ciaramitaro shows off the kitchen at Eastside Teen Outreach, where she cooks meals for the kids who come by Thursday evenings.

Photo by Donna Dalziel

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EASTPOINTE — For teenagers who need a place to study or want to take up some new hobbies, Eastside Teen Outreach has a new after-school program and some funding to keep it going.

The outreach center received a $10,000 grant from the AT&T Foundation Nov. 12 to help with the center’s new after-school program, ETO Life, according to co-founder Deena Trocino. That program is dedicated to giving teens a place to work on homework, receive mentoring and tutoring, or check out new hobbies and interests like drama, journalism or photography.

Trocino said state Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, suggested the organization for the grant when the AT&T Foundation approached him looking for suitable groups. 

“Empowered teens grow into highly effective, working adults, which helps build our economy and develop our entire society in ways we can’t even begin to imagine today,” Bieda said in a statement about the grant.

Bieda has been a strong supporter of the outreach group, Trocino said. She added that ETO leaders were “humbled” that he suggested the program to AT&T.

“They were looking for a youth-serving organization that worked with high school students, and he immediately said Eastside Teen Outreach,” Trocino said. “They sent us a request to apply for the grant, so we applied for the grant and we were awarded that (money).”

A large chunk of the grant will go toward healthier food — fruit, vegetables, cheese and crackers, juice — for the teenagers, she said, as the ETO Life program aims for the students to not eat “junk food and candy” while doing homework.

She said that when researching other after-school programs, they found that students have an easier time doing homework in a structured environment.

Being able to get assistance on difficult subjects from other students or volunteers is a boon to students, Trocino said, but there also is value in getting kids exposed to more activities and possibilities. For example, she said that if a student likes to write, the outreach program could put the student in touch with a journalism club or actual reporters.

ETO Life had its official opening Oct. 12 — though some kids were able to attend it a few weeks earlier as part of a pilot program — and since that time, the program has had about a dozen teens show up, mostly on weekdays. The outreach center has later sessions on Thursdays, where teens can come, hang out and eat a full dinner, and those later sessions get approximately 25-60 teens, Trocino said.

“We’re hoping the after-school program really thrives,” Trocino said. “We hope there’s dozens and dozens of kids who can come.”

The program is open to teens throughout the metro Detroit area who are able to make it to the outreach center; in practice, the majority are students who live in southern Macomb County, but Trocino said they have seen kids from other areas who have been able to get rides.

She added that they want to partner with the East Detroit school district to help provide those local students with more resources and assistance.

AT&T Michigan President Jim Murray praised the work that Eastside Teen Outreach has been doing in its community.

“The Eastside Teen Outreach has already delivered compelling results to local students and families,” Murray said in a statement. “It’s our goal to help them continue their work and support the success of learners throughout the community.”

The after-school program is open 2-6 p.m. Mondays-Wednesdays and Fridays, and 2-9 p.m. Thursdays. The center is located at 15800 E. 10 Mile Road in Eastpointe.

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