Our Beginning

Teens 2 Teens is the brainchild of John Schenk, whose conception of an organization aimed at helping teens help themselves was born out of his own struggles as a high school student in St. Louis, Missouri.

John displayed both his entrepreneurial and philanthropic spirits at a young age. In 2009, spurred on by his intense love of baseball and his heartache over discovering many player autographs he had purchased on eBay were forged, a 14-year-old John formed Show-Me-State Signatures, LLC, which was dedicated to offering authentic sports memorabilia at affordable prices. Along with an older fellow collector as his partner, John arranged autograph signings with some of the best players to ever play the game, including Stan Musial, Lou Brock, Marty Marion, Brooks Robinson, and Jack Clark. Due to John’s innovation and hard work, Show-Me-State Signatures received national attention from half a dozen media outlets, including Fox and MTV. John himself was offered the position of exclusive booking agent for Jack Clark. But John’s success did not make him forget the struggles of others. Part of the proceeds of the business went to the National Kidney Foundation in honor of his younger sister, Monica, who received a life-saving kidney transplant in 2000.

But despite being a young CEO of a successful company, John was not immune from the struggles many other high school students face. He often felt isolated and alone, experiencing harsh bullying at school. After he was betrayed by his only friends at the time, John was consumed by feelings of abandonment and despair. In January of his freshman year of high school, he attempted suicide and was admitted to Hyland Behavioral Health Center for intensive inpatient therapy.

During his recovery, John began wondering what could have been done to make him feel more welcomed, loved, and cared for. What needs could have been met to keep him from thinking the only solution to his problems was taking his life? He felt a calling towards other teens who were caught in the same kind of loneliness and darkness he had experienced, and he began reflecting on ways he might use his own talents to help others in a more extraordinary way. The seeds for what would become Teens 2 Teens had been planted.

Over the next year, John began presenting his idea for a program based on teaching teens the core values of friendship to many people, including educators, youth ministry directors, and even a Catholic bishop. The idea took root and blossomed with each new discussion he had. At the same time, John discovered that his Show-Me-State Signatures partner had been embezzling from him, and he became embroiled in a lawsuit, resulting in his decision to abandon the company. Despite the strong relationships he maintained with athletes and memorabilia customers, John decided to focus his efforts on something that could impact others in a more positive and direct way. By his senior year of high school, Teens 2 Teens had begun taking off in the St. Louis area. It has currently grown to service schools and organizations across the country and offered its programs to all teens, regardless of race, religion, sex, or economic status.

Now in his 20’s, John has built a career out of helping others. Not only is he the CEO of Teens 2 Teens, but he also runs Schenk Entertainment, managing rising Christian musicians. In addition, sits on the Board of Directors of half a dozen organizations that range from working with orphans, ending human sex trafficking, and building a generation of believers through inspirational music and clothing.

John’s journey was certainly one that included tremendous struggle. But he has learned there is hope for everyone, and his mission is to spread that message. “I continue to have a deep passion for service to others and a belief in the power of life-long friendships. I truly feel that anyone, no matter their background or what they have been through, deserves love, respect, and mercy. We all have a story.”

Many thanks to these people who lent the help and support needed to get Teens 2 Teens off the ground:

Tony Sansone, Jr.
Dr. Richard Lehman
Thomas Niemann, Esq.
Reverend Mitchell Doyen
Colleen Sheehan
Zip Rzeppa
And all the countless donors, supporters, and volunteers


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