Clean Teens nonprofit to close this spring
After more than 10 years in existence, having helped hundreds of teens in Washtenaw County to stop abusing drugs and alcohol, the nonprofit Clean Teens is about to call it quits. That's because founder and sole employee Justin Bishop is passing the torch and turning his focus to his own family.
"I have one more Town Hall meeting in March or April, and that will be it," said Bishop. "I love the work. The majority of people in Washtenaw County believe that teenage drinking is a problem and that is validation."
Bishop founded Clean Teens in 2001, when he was going through his own recovery and learning about prevention. His original funding came from Community Mental Health. He visited Stone School, where he started a group that met during the school day. For some students, the group became a reason to go to school. The following year, Bishop was asked to lead a group at Huron High School.
"Everyone in the group was using drugs," said Bishop. "Many of them had struggles at home and there was a lot of academic failure. You can't preach to adolescents. We wanted the kids to reflect on what was going on. That's what brings about change."
After two years focusing on the high-risk population at Huron High School, Bishop was asked to expand his program to the whole school. He credits the involvement of parents and the support from Huron High School Principal Arthur Williams for the success of his groups.
In 2006, Clean Teens received a federal grant from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and Bishop helped organize numerous town hall meetings in the county, which included participation from nonprofits, students, parents and panels of experts.
"That same year I started an alcohol prevention program, and I focused on alcohol because it was being used by teens more than all other drugs combined," said Bishop.
Bishop was asked to start a substance abuse prevention group at Pioneer High School during the 2009-2010 school year.
In the years that followed, he realized that his work in the school districts was taking its toll on his own family life. Bishop has had to work additional jobs to make ends meet, which he will continue to do.
He says that another organization will be taking over for him at Huron High School. Bishop won't name the organization, but says it is "an amazing outfit" and that he will pass all his programs and resources to the new organization.
"I think the Ann Arbor School District is ahead of its time when it comes to its substance abuse policies," said Bishop. "Ann Arbor is probably the model for the state. I'll miss the people the most. Watching a teenager look at me and knowing what they're thinking is something I just love."