YouthBuild Newark Partners With Community Partners for Born Learning Trail

On September 26 and 27, 2012, students from both YouthBuild Newark and Newark Leadership Academy (NLA) assisted the United Way of Essex and West Hudson (UWEWH), the YMWCA of Newark and Vicinity, and New Jersey Partner for Health Kids – Newark (NJPHK-N) in building a “Born Learning Trail” for youth in Newark’s Nat Turner Park.

The first one to be built in the City, the Born Learning Trail provides ten (10) self-guiding and engaging, interactive activities that adults can use to create early learning opportunities for children. By following a series of colorful shapes, signs and hopscotch squares, children can learn their numbers and letters through active play. The Trail is a great way for a community to use outdoor space to promote literacy, social development and physical activity.

“When I was asked to help United Way of Essex and West Hudson and the YMWCA to build a walking trail in Nat Turner Park, it was a blessing.” said YouthBuild Newark 2012 Graduate Gareek Drayton. He continued, “I love giving back to my community and helping our future – the children – have a safe place to play and hang out. I also enjoyed working with the United Way – it was fun.  I can see YouthBuild and United Way working together again in the future.”

The YMCA of Newark invited YBN to take part in the build. With YBN having historically engaged in numerous service-learning projects throughout Greater Newark – including assisting with a playground build in partnership with KaBOOM!, and working with the Greater Newark Conservancy to sustain a community garden for neighborhood residents – the collaboration served as an additional opportunity to make a tangible impact.

Elizabeth Phillips-Lorenzo of the YMWCA reflects on YBN’s and NLA’s service, “I want to thank [YouthBuild Newark and Newark Leadership Academy] for having such good students, graduates and staff.  [The] staff was able to assess the challenges for the build and made our job easier with their suggestions and guidance. “

Born Learning was created in 2005 to help any United Way boost community engagement around young children. Today, some 700 United Ways and early childhood coalitions or organizations are using Born Learning community engagement tools to boost awareness, educate parents and move communities to action.  In particular, the program is part of United Way’s effort to ensure that children are ready physically, mentally, developmentally, emotionally and socially to begin kindergarten.

The Build’s completion offers youth a safe and educational space in which to play.

For more information on the Born Learning Trail project, please contact Machelle Lassiter by phone at 973-854-2231 or email

Click here to read UWEWH’s original press release.

About The United Way of Essex and West Hudson
Founded in 1923, the United Way of Essex and West Hudson is a non-profit organization that seeks to address the root causes of community concerns by aligning resources to best meet the needs of individuals, children and families through its service area annually. It serves a population of nearly 700,000 in thirteen communities in Essex and Hudson County. For more information, visit

About New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids – Newark

New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids is a statewide program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation with technical assistance and direction provided by the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance. In Newark, the project is led by Co-Directors, Michael C. Bright, President and CEO of the YMCA of Newark and Vicinity, and by Dr. Nwando Anyaoku, Director of General Pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.

The Newark Partnership is one of only five in New Jersey currently granted to strategically plan and then work to implement policy and environmental change to reverse childhood obesity by 2015. The New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids -Newark focuses on these four areas to affect change: 1) Schools, 2) Food Access, 3) Safe Environment and 4) Healthcare Sector.

About YMWCA of Essex and Vicinity

YMWCA’s mission is to provide opportunities for individual growth, youth and family development and overall enhancement of the quality of life in our community through programs that include health, housing, recreation, education and social direction.

Since 1881, the Newark YMWCA has provided:

  • Afterschool programs that bring peace of mind to parents
  • Shelter and support to families in crisis
  • Swimming lessons and sports clinics for children
  • Opportunities for volunteers to make a difference
  • A place for health seekers to attain a new level of fitness and well-being

New Principal for Newark Leadership Academy

NEWARK, NJ – September 24, 2012 – Seasoned school leader Semone Morant has been selected as Newark Leadership Academy’s (NLA) newest Principal, bringing with him a vision for a transformative 2012-2013 school year.

new principal at nla

Throughout his tenure as a classroom educator and leader in the Newark Public Schools (NPS) district, Morant amassed extensive experience in implementing strategic approaches to rigorous academic curricula, developing technology-based approaches to literacy and numeracy education, and training and coaching on data-driven instruction, all of which are cornerstones of NLA’s alternative education approach. He will play an integral role in fostering a school culture of high expectations and greater student success.

YouthBuild Newark (YBN) Board President Leonard Murray reflects on Mr. Morant’s addition. “Semone Morant is a visionary educator who will bring high standards, academic rigor, innovative new programs and an enthusiastic spirit to NLA to help our student body of future leaders achieve their full potential."

Mr. Morant is recognized as a collaborative educator whose emphasis on pooling resources and working with staff across departments has resulted in improvements in student achievement. He also possesses the added skills of working in diverse schools and communities with mixed populations, and reading and speaking Spanish and French.

“It is my goal and belief that students at NLA by the end of the year will not only have the opportunity to recover credits needed to graduate at a pace established by themselves, but will also learn essentially that they are not failures and can achieve ultimately whatever they want to achieve despite any setbacks previously faced in their lives,” said Morant.

Based upon YBN’s proven model for at-risk, high-risk and out-of-school youth achievement, NLA provides a comprehensive approach to education by engaging students in a rigorous academic curriculum and innovative evidence-based methods for secondary education and workforce development. To make learning more tangible, the Academy links Mathematics, Language Arts and other subjects to a vocational curriculum supplied by the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER). NLA also provides extensive support services that include in-depth case management, community-building and leadership development.

NLA had enrolled 119 students during the 2011 – 2012 school year. The Academy will systematically serve additional students each year until a maximum of 300 is reached. Several graduates of the inaugural senior class transitioned to post-secondary institutions such as Essex County College and Lincoln Technical Institute. In September 2012, NLA’s first Valedictorian, Nelson Pryce, joined YBN graduates at the 2012 Opportunity Nation Summit in Washington, D.C. At this Summit, more than 1,200 thought leaders gathered to discuss and support an eight-point plan combining public and private sector efforts to create new pathways for young adults to succeed in high school, post-secondary education and careers.

NLA’s new school leader, Mr. Morant, is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Public Administration at New Jersey City University and earned his Master in Education with a concentration in leadership of educational organizations from American Intercontinental University. He secured his Bachelors degree from Rutgers University-Newark where he majored in Urban Education and History with a concentration in American History. Mr. Morant was also recently inducted into the Emerging Leaders Program at New Leaders™, which trains teachers, leaders, coaches, assistant principals and other leaders in instructional roles to develop and expand their leadership skills. New Leaders is a national nonprofit that develops transformational school leaders and designs effective leadership policies and practices for school systems across the country.

YouthBuild Newark is the partner agency to Newark Leadership Academy, and enables low-income youth to complete their secondary educational goals and lead productive, self-sufficient lives. YBN is based in Newark and has a programmatic impact in four (4) other high-need cities throughout the State of New Jersey. YouthBuild Newark’s program is based upon the national YouthBuild model, which has received bi-partisan political support since its inception.

ICREW Selects YouthBuild Newark as its Charity of the Month

In September 2012, the Prudential Foundation, a long-standing private funder of YouthBuild Newark (YBN), selected the agency to be charity of the month at the Industrial and Commercial Real Estate Women’s (ICREW) September membership meeting held at Prudential headquarters.

In addition to the office supplies that were supplied and the individual donations graciously provided by some of its members, ICREW provided YBN with a contribution of $1,100.

Recent graduates Yuleka De Los Santos and Taisha Minor accompanied YBN’s Deputy Executive Director SanDonna Jones and Grants Administrator Naima Briscoe to the meeting. ICREW members (e.g. real estate professionals, architects, interior designers, bankers, Prudential staff, etc.) were impressed with Yuleka and Taisha’s current endeavors and future plans – Yuleka aspires to be a nurse while Taisha hopes to someday open a daycare center.
Each month, ICREW designates a portion of the proceeds from its membership meetings to a particular charity.
YBN is thankful for the Prudential Foundation’s recommendation and ICREW’s support as private resources continue to play a crucial role in YBN’s capacity to operate a comprehensive program. The agency looks forward to identifying additional ways in which it can collaborate with ICREW.

About Industrial/Commercial Real Estate Women, Inc. (ICREW NJ)

Industrial/Commercial Real Estate Women, Inc. (ICREW NJ) is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1982 that promotes communication and interaction between experienced commercial real estate professionals in New Jersey. ICREW NJ is the New Jersey organization for women involved in all aspects of commercial and industrial real estate. Members represent fields as diversified as accountants, architects, appraisers, asset/property managers, attorneys, consultants, developers, lenders, leasing and sales brokers, mortgage bankers/brokers, marketing specialists, market and investment analysts, corporate real estate representatives, and title/escrow officers.

Newark Leadership Academy Commences 2012-2013 School Year

Newark Leadership Academy began its second year of operation on September 6, 2012, welcoming several new staffers, including new principal, Semone Morant, a second Social Studies teacher, two Art teachers, one Child Study Team Social Worker, and a part-time School Psychologist. Currently, one hundred sixteen (116) students are enrolled.  

YBN has partnered with the Newark Public Schools’ (NPS) Re-Engagement Center (REC) for students who are currently not in school but interested in returning. The REC will be the single point of entry for all students as opposed to individual schools being able to transfer students to other schools directly. It will assess students’ educational and socio-emotional needs and create an educational program based upon on their individual needs. Students will receive approximately six (6) weeks of remediation, counseling and standard instruction at the REC prior to their transition to a traditional district high school, a district alternative program (e.g. NLA) or a community-based program (e.g. YBN) for those students who may be over-aged, etc.

In addition to assisting with ongoing recruitment, YBN continues to work with the REC to help cultivate a program culture that is rooted in evidence-based youth development methodologies. By establishing a “youth development” culture at the REC, staff and students will be better able to assess students’ interests, readiness, strengths, areas of concern, etc. and NPS can thus recommend the most appropriate individualized plan for each student. It is YBN’s hope that this partnership will reach and provide services to more out-of-school and disengaged youth.

YBN is grateful for the support of the Nicholson Foundation, the Newark Trust for Education and the Foundation for Newark’s Future, whose support enabled YBN to more readily ensure that NLA debuted as an effective model for comprehensive alternative education and youth development.