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Creative Studio Will Help 'Exceptional' Children Express Themselves

Local organization receives $35K grant to expand programs in new space.

Participants in the Pathways for Exceptional Children programs will soon have a new space to let their creativity grow after the organization recently received a grant to purchase space for a creative studio.

Pathways has the former Montville Township Board of Education offices in mind for the studio space, although nothing has been finalized yet. Founder Melinda Jennis said she thinks the studio should be open by the end of the month, at which point a grand opening will be held.

Jennis said the Montville-based organization was awarded a $35,000 grant from the Kessler Foundation, which works to provide employment opportunities to people with disabilities. Pathways promotes inclusion of children of all abilities and ages through more than 40 activities and programs. Older kids and teenagers are also involved, serving as mentors.

Jennis started Pathways 10 years ago because of her personal experiences with her multiply-disabled son. The organization started as a group of parents planning after-school programs for their kids, but it has grown to include not just children with disabilities, but all children.

Pathways programs are held at the library and at various other places throughout Montville, but Jennis said the new studio will allow certain artistic programs to expand.

"All of the artistic stuff now is going to be moving into the creative studio, so it's a lot of different creative forms of technology that are going to be moving into there," she said.

Programs such as photography, art and music will be main focuses of the new studio. Jennis mentioned one program participant's passion for DJ'ing and said that he was asked to provide music for his church and paid well for the opportunity. The studio will help kids like him be able to work on their skills, as well as create websites and other materials to market their talents.

Jennis said she is also hoping to get donations to fund the installation of newer equipment and computer programs for the Pathways kids to use. She said many of the kids are growing out of some of the older technology and looking to get into more challenging programs.

"We really need to buy a lot more Adobe software because the kids have kind of outgrown some of the Apple software, so that kind of stuff is really what we need more donations of," she said.

Some of the participants have found interest in graphic design while others have learned to love music and formed a rock and roll band.

"Now that they're getting older, they're moving really into a lot of technology. They've gotten really savvy," she said. "Sometimes you kind of wonder who has the disability."

Jennis also said Pathways would like to have more people interested in donating their time to the program, particularly people with creative expertise who can help lead programs once the studio is open. Anyone interested in participating can reach Jennis at 973-856-9587.

Melinda's neighbor January 03, 2013 at 01:37 PM
Great-Congratulations. This will certainly ease the traffic caused by these events that are held at Melinda's house. The neighbors think it is a worthy cause, but don't like all the cars that these programs bring to the street. It is supposed to be a quiet cul-de-sac--not a main thoroughfare. Maybe now my driveway won't be blocked every time the parents come to drop off or pick up their kids.
Terry Cavanaugh January 07, 2013 at 12:22 AM
Melinda Jennis and the Pathways parents and high school students have worked tirelessly to improve the lives of our neediest children. They have provided many "pathways" to a brighter and more fulfilling life to children and their families. Bravo to all - ( and too bad about the "traffic jam" --- these children wish they would be able to drive a car someday!!) ---terry cavanaugh, Imm. Past Pres, Learning Disabiitities Assn of New Jersey.

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