Local teenagers may soon have to sign off from the Santa Barbara Teen News Network for the last time if their parent foundation can’t close a $6,000 funding gap by Saturday.
The Patricia Henley Foundation, which supports the network, must have 33 percent of its income from the past five years be publicly donated in order to keep its 501(c)3 public nonprofit tax status, Associate Director Trixie Geyer told Noozhawk on Tuesday.
“We have capital, but we won’t be able to fundraise for grants,” Geyer said.
She expects the network to stay on the air for at least another year if the foundation loses its nonprofit status. Its major costs are video equipment and salaries for technical advisers.
But the teenage broadcasters would immediately be ineligible to apply for a $4,000 grant from The Fund for Santa Barbara that would help pay for a series on higher education and mentorships.
While living at the Noah’s Anchorage Youth Crisis Center, extracurricular activities such as sbTNN and cheerleading practice were the only way 16-year-old Morgen Dishmon was allowed to leave the house outside of school.
“Most of the people were just getting out of juvie, so I was really scared,” she said.
Dishmon got involved by taking an Acting in Television class at Dos Pueblos High School from a teacher who also advised sbTNN’s teens. She said the program has not only given her an opportunity to pursue her lifelong dream of being a star, but it has taught her how to work with people of different ages.
“We all became really good friends the same day we met,” Dishmon said.
Julie Koonce, who has been Dishmon’s foster mom for the past six months, says sbTNN has provided Morgen with an outlet to work in front of and behind the camera on a weekly basis.
“It gives her an opportunity she wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else,” Koonce said.
A cast and crew of 40 students from Montecito to Santa Barbara’s Eastside and representing every local junior high and high school, whether public or private, broadcast from the Santa Barbara Channels studios on Saturdays, Geyer said.
She said the network is best described as the equivalent of a teen lifestyle magazine that is shown online, including on Noozhawk, and television. It has provided a venue for teenage garage bands and musicians, covered high school athletics and the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, and highlighted nonprofits offering to fill mandatory community service hours.
“Our only criteria is that it needs to be positive,” Geyer said. “If something negative happens in town, there’s a positive spin on it.”
Geyer, who has been a producer for the network since its inception three years ago, said she believes the upbeat attitude helps teens transcend school rivalries and provides the community-at-large an alternative to the “negative news” media.
Sponsors of sbTNN include the Santa Barbara Channels, Noozhawk, the Santa Barbara Unified School District, Lynda.com, ParentClick.com, the Santa Barbara Bowl, Santa Barbara Bank & Trust and Deckers Outdoor Corp.