Everyday Heroes: Jefferson Teen Connection

Tony Roberts (left) talks to teens at Jefferson Teen Connection.

Where do you want your kids going after school?

Tony Roberts and Shelly Herrera knew the small city of Jefferson lacked a program dedicated to working with kids and teens after school.

So, in 2015, they started one themselves.

Jefferson Teen Connection is a nonprofit dedicated to giving teens in the Jefferson community a safe place to come and hang out.

“It keeps them off the streets, it keeps them occupied, it gives them direction,” Roberts said.

Inside the JTC building, kids can play air hockey and video games, get online, do jigsaw puzzles, or just talk to Roberts and Herrera.

“They tell us things that they don’t tell their parents,” Roberts said. “We know more about their home life than the parents think that we do. It’s good that they can come and talk to us and we can just kind of get it here and leave it here.”

Roberts and Herrera both volunteer to keep JTC running. They don’t get paid and the kids never pay anything to come hang out.

The nonprofit survives solely on donations, and Roberts said they’ll need more to keep the program running.

“We’ll just keep volunteering and hope that tomorrow’s a better day is what we’re doing,” Roberts said.

Making a Difference

Roberts said every day JTC sees 10 to 20 kids come by after school (or during the day when school is out).

Colby Mersch, 17, is often among them.

“The people that are coming here, their life has been changing,” Mersch said. “They’re not going out becoming a part of the wrong crowd. They’re coming here, staying safe, not getting in trouble with the police or the fire department.”

Mersch added that coming to JTC got him to leave his house more.

“I’m not staying at home as much as I used to. I’m actually getting out and enjoying everything,” Mersch said.

Another JTC regular, sophomore Hailey Prichard, said Tony and Shelly are fantastic confidants.

“I can talk to them about my life,” Prichard said. “Like I can talk to them if I’m getting bullied and stuff like that. They’re there to listen.”

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