20 Dec 2016

YouthBuild Newark and Opportunity Youth Network Launch NJ’s First Charter School for Alternative Education

LEAD Charter School After over 13 years of providing comprehensive education and workforce training to opportunity youth, YouthBuild Newark (YBN) has partnered with the Opportunity Youth Network (OYN) to launch LEAD Charter School (LEAD), New Jersey’s first alternative education charter school

According to data from Newark Public Schools, there are roughly 7,000 Newark youth between the ages 16-24 who are either two or more years off-track to graduate (i.e., severely over-age and under-credited) or are neither enrolled in school nor participating in the labor market (i.e., opportunity youth). These young people are often “disconnected” from strong social networks and may become vulnerable to negative outcomes.

Operating a comprehensive, skills-based program that is grounded in youth development, LEAD Charter School will help students in grades 9th through 12th master the essential skills crucial for success in postsecondary education, career, and community leadership within a global society. LEAD’s core course of study complies with the NJ Department of Education’s (DOE) high school graduation requirements and includes at a minimum: Language Arts Literacy, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, World Language, Visual & Performing Arts, Health, Safety & Physical Education, 21st Century Life & Career or Career & Technical Education, and electives, including but not limited to, Financial Literacy, Life Skills, and Business Computer Technology.

Failing to engage this population of young people has significant economic repercussions that negatively impact families, local communities, the workforce, and municipal revenues. Leveraging YBN’s expertise in improving educational outcomes for opportunity youth, LEAD will pave the way for how charter schools serve disengaged and opportunity youth.

LEAD will be housed on the 2nd floor of a newly renovated facility located at 201 Bergen Street in Newark. It will be co-located with the OYN Reengagement Center (REC), a one-stop shop for opportunity youth to access assessment and placement services. Slated to open for the 2017-2018 school year, LEAD will function as an effective option for disengaged and opportunity youth following their transition from the REC.  The REC and LEAD Charter School are core components of OYN’s strategy to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline. 

The LEAD Charter School Board is comprised of community leaders committed to helping youth navigate pathways to economic stability, positive community engagement, and leadership.

Rodney Brutton, MPA, Director of Workforce Development, New Community Corporation
Robert Clark, Founding Executive Director, YouthBuild Newark
Craig Drinkard, MBA, Associate Director for Operations, Victoria Foundation
Jennifer Finnerty, Vice President, Prudential Financial
Ryan P. Haygood, Esq., President and CEO, New Jersey Institute for Social Justice
Dominique Lee, Co-Founder & CEO, BRICK
Shawadeim Reagans, School Leader & Leadership Coach, TEAM Charter Schools: A KIPP Region
Lavar Young, Director, Newark, Black Alliance for Educational Options

LEAD will increase the number of “high-quality” seats available to opportunity youth – creating more choices for youth and families, in addition to traditional public schools.

Read the NJ Department of Education press release here.