September 2008

Grant Results

National Program

New Jersey Health Initiatives Program


The Freedom Foundation of New Jersey Inc., West Orange, N.J., carried out three programs encouraging girls in inner-city Newark, N.J., to abstain from illegal drugs and sexual relations.

Newark has one of the highest per-capita female-HIV-infection rates in the United States, with AIDS the leading cause of death among young black women of childbearing age.

The three programs, Best Friends, Teen Challenge, and Diamond Girls, operated through the Newark school system and were organized by Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes the health and well-being of youth.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) New Jersey Health Initiatives national program (for more information see Grant Results).

Key Results
Best Friends offers girls at risk for unwanted pregnancies and HIV infection:

  • A range of classroom sessions.
  • Weekly mentoring meetings with school system volunteers.
  • Other structured activities designed to foster self-esteem, supportive relationships, and positive peer pressure.
  • Information about sexuality and substance abuse, and career and recreational opportunities.

During the first grant (1993–1996):

  • Best Friends had 365 sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade participants, with an average dropout rate of 6 percent (22 girls).

The first grant also helped support an ongoing program, Teen Challenge, through which locally trained college students and youth counselors offered abstinence-based drug and HIV-prevention seminars to Newark students from sixth grade through high school as well as to their parents and teachers.

  • By 1996, Teen Challenge was presented to more than 3,500 sixth-grade students and teachers (nearly the entire sixth-grade population) in the Newark school system.
  • By 1998, more than 27,000 students, parents, and teachers in Newark had been presented this program.

Two other RWJF grants piloted and expanded Best Friends' high school counterpart, Diamond Girls, which offered twice-monthly sessions on subjects such as friendship, trust, and decision-making and the importance of completing high school and avoiding substance abuse.

It also offered mentoring and career and recreational opportunities.

  • By 1999, there were 98 active participants in the Diamond Girls program — 87 of whom had been enrollees from the Best Friends program.

The first RWJF grant, which took place between 1993 and 1996, helped to initiate and expand Best Friends in Newark, N.J., a program aimed at girls in sixth grade through middle school.

RWJF supported the program with three grants that totaled $243,260 between June 1993 and February 1999.

After the Grant
RWJF continued to support the Diamond Girls program in Newark through six additional $47,500 grants (ID#s 039037, 039628, 043587, 046993, 049790, 052680) from May 2000 through December 2006, for a total of $285,000. This support was outside of the New Jersey Health Initiative.

 See Grant Detail & Contact Information
 Back to the Table of Contents



Support for Implementation and Expansion of the Best Friends Program for Girls in Newark, N.J., Middle Schools and High Schools


Freedom Foundation of New Jersey Inc. (West Orange,  NJ)

  • Abstinence Based Teen Drug, HIV, and Pregnancy Prevention Program
    Amount: $ 177,220
    Dates: June 1993 to May 1996
    ID#:  022405

  • Pilot Project to Expand Newark Best Friend Program
    Amount: $ 26,065
    Dates: October 1996 to August 1997
    ID#:  030358

  • High School Phase of Health Risk Prevention Program for Girls
    Amount: $ 39,975
    Dates: March 1998 to February 1999
    ID#:  033000


RoseMarie V. Peterkin
(973) 642-8808

 Back to the Table of Contents

Report prepared by: Barbara Finkelstein
Reviewed by: David Kales
Reviewed by: Janet Heroux
Program Officer: Judith Y. Whang

Most Requested