Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 34
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
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HiTOPS Boosts Men’s Focus And Sees Busy Year Ahead

Ellen Gilbert

With the appointment of Leonardo Galeano as Health Services Administrator, HiTOPS, the Teen Health and Education Center located on Wiggins Street, hopes to place more focus on male services, according to Executive Director Lori Heninger. Findings in recent research, she noted, have dispelled any concerns there might be about the impact of a male administrator on female clients. “It will be good for young women to see that men can know about reproductive heath care,” added Director of Educational Programs Elizabeth M. Casparian.

Mr. Galeano, who is bilingual, is replacing Diana Miranda, who has been promoted to Latino Outreach Coordinator. “It’s wonderful to be able to promote from within,” observed Ms. Heninger.

In addition to staff changes, the non-profit agency also recently amended its mission statement to read “HiTOPS mission is to promote adolescent health and well-being.” Although the phrase “through clinical and support services and educational programs” was deleted, Ms. Casparian was quick to point out that the new wording was a matter of convenience; “if anything, we’ve added services,” she noted.

HiTOPS seems largely to have escaped the budget woes that are afflicting many state agencies and non-profits these days. Although Teen PEP, a peer sexual health education program, was in danger of some state budget cuts, recognition of its value as a comprehensive program that fills many gaps has insured its durability, according to Ms. Casparian. “We will not see any decreases in funding for this year,” noted Ms. Heninger. “We have a fantastic grant manager in the state government, who really worked for us to maintain funding. We’ve been very fortunate.”

Director of Development and Marketing Julie Meyers added the importance of individual and corporate support to insuring the continuation of HiTOPs programs. “We’re here because the community wants us to be here,” she observed.

Asked about the potential impact of the outcome of the upcoming presidential race on agencies like HiTOPS, Ms. Heninger observed that “our goal is to ensure that young people get the health care and education they need. We will be advocating for better services, whichever candidate and congressional representatives are elected.” More specifically, however, she noted that “we do know that abstinence-only education doesn’t work, and we will be advocating for comprehensive sex education.”

While the HiTOPS Health Center experiences its busiest times during mid- and late-summer when students are home from college, the Education Department swings into full gear from the end of September through the middle of November. Ms. Casparian said that they are anticipating an even busier season than usual, with requests for workshops and training programs through the spring already coming in. Princeton public school children enjoy the benefits of HiTOPS programs throughout their school years, with programs about bullying, for example, offered in elementary and middle school, and discussions of gender issues and social justice in middle and high school. “We work hard at outreach,” said Ms. Casparian, who attends middle and high school PTO meetings.

Ms. Heninger noted the particular difficulties often faced by parents teen-agers, and the feeling of isolation some of them may experience. HiTOPS offers parents “help that can make a difference,” she observed. Cooperation with the Princeton Regional Schools is enhanced by the presence of Princeton High School Principal Gary Snyder on the HiTOPS Board of Directors. Ms. Heninger also noted the number of related local agencies with which HiTOPS collaborates, including Corner House, Jewish Family Services, the Trinity Counseling Center, the YM- and YWCA, and the library.

While HiTOPs classes on bullying and meanness, sexual harassment, postponing sexual involvement, date rape, sexually transmitted diseases, and pregnancy prevention are being used state-wide and as far away as North Carolina, their “first and foremost” commitment, according to Ms. Heninger, is to Princeton.

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