The Board of Supervisors Human Services Committee presented NextLevel4Teens, Loudoun County's first and only private, nonprofit after-school program for teens, with a certificate of appreciation at its monthly meeting Thursday. Board members acknowledged their support of the teen center program and said they hoped to be a help to the organization in any way possible.
"Usually from tragedy comes action, passion and purpose," said Vice Chairman Bruce Tulloch (R-Potomac). "I applaud you for working so hard. Whatever we can do to help you along, I think we will."
THE ORGANIZATION got its start in March 2004 after Broad Run High School freshman Donald Nicholas Shomaker was shot in the basement of a friend's house. Several hundred teens gathered for a march in his honor protesting drugs, guns and violence shortly after the incident. NextLevel4Teens founder Fred Mitchell created the organization in response to the teens' outcry. Through NextLevel, Mitchell hopes to provide teenagers and particularly preteens with a safe environment, where they can come to hang out and get the mentoring, tutoring and counseling they need and want.
Recently, NextLevel solidified partnerships with Dr. Craig Moorman, a psychotherapist who specializes in individual, family, couple and adolescent therapy, crisis intervention, addiction and family wellness; Cheryl Mitchell, a certified nutritionist of Loudoun Nutrition Associates; Dr. Mahsin Habib, who specializes in internal and family medicine; Tutoring for Success Inc.; and former Redskins player Eddie Mason and current Redskin James Thrash, founders of Mase Training — an organization that helps build athletic performance in any sport. In mid-July, Alexander Estates, a real estate investment company, purchased two office buildings at 44081 Pipeline Plaza in Ashburn for the organization, where all of the partners will hold headquarters.
BY CONSOLIDATING these partnerships under the same roof, Mitchell said, the center will be able to provide a strong focus on educational workshops, homework clubs, SAT preparation, teen and family health, fitness and nutrition programs, mentoring and counseling. Mitchell said construction is expected to be complete by the end of January 2006, so in the meantime, the organization is trying to raise money to furnish the building.
It held its first fund-raiser Friday at the Lansdowne Virginia on the Potomac and raised approximately one third of its $30,000 goal. Just under a hundred citizens attended the dinner, including Shomaker's mother, grandparents and other extended family members, Mitchell said. The goal of the fund-raiser was twofold.
"We wanted to update everyone in the community about our team and educate parents and teenagers where the building will be located," he said. "And to of course raise money."
The majority of the money raised will go toward purchasing items on the center's wish list like computers,
plasma televisions, video-game consoles, furniture, a smoothie machine and other equipment for the café area and office equipment. Mitchell estimated the total cost of furnishing to be about $50,000.
"So we have a ways to go," he said. "But it's coming in. We can't really complain. We're pushing towards it." Mitchell said the organization plans to hold two more fund-raisers this year, one in November and another before the New Year.
In the past, NextLevel received donations from supporters and corporate sponsors. But now, citizens can help by purchasing a subscription to the organization's new monthly newsletter — a detailed, regularly updated leaflet with information about the center and all its different programs. A year subscription costs $24.95. The organization is now also set up to receive donations on its Web site, www.nextlevel4teens.org.
THOUGH IT WILL be headquartered in Ashburn, the center will be open to anyone, Mitchell said. But because the center will be private and controlled, parents will have to make the first step by calling or coming in to make an appointment and registering their child in the program. Initially, Mitchell said the program will focus more heavily on middle-school students who are at a more precarious stage of life than elementary- or high-school students and will be open three times a week for middle-school student programs. Thursday and Friday evenings will cater to high-school students.
"What means the most to me is that NextLevel4Teens is in a position to help just about any teenager or family in this area," he said. "We can help anybody, any teenager, any family. We can't hold thousands of kids but we can help the thousands of kids coming through here needing different services."
Mitchell said the organization's next goal is to think about where to place the next center. He is considering Lansdowne and Ashburn Farm.