YBN and NLA Students Honored At “Trust Your Voice” Ceremony (Feb 4, 2013)

YBN student Anthony and Newark Leadership Academy (NLA) student Briana were among six young people honored by the Newark Trust for Education at its first annual “Trust Your Voice” awards ceremony on January 31, 2013.

Members of the High School Policy Advisory Group (HSPAG), a group of young men and women who are currently or were formerly enrolled in Newark Public Schools (NPS), Anthony and Briana were recognized for their efforts to develop school safety policy recommendations for NPS. For six months, they participated in a series of meetings, co-facilitated by YBN’s Program Director Darrell Price, at the Trust's Broad Street location. They addressed scheduling, course offerings, school climate and safety and offered feedback to school leaders across NPS comprehensive high schools.

Additional honorees included former and current students from Barringer High School, Fast Track Success Academy, and Luis Muñoz Marin Elementary School.

With service-learning and leadership development core principles of YBN’s youth development approach, participating in the HSPAG is just one example of the many ways in which YBN and NLA students serve their communities. Through the Willing Heart Community Care Center and the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, students assist with food collection and distribution to families/individuals in need on a weekly basis. This year, in partnership with the Trust for Public Land, YBN students also helped install 54 recycling bins in three of Newark’s parks. The effort that students displayed led the Trust to consider having YBN graduates intern as custodians of parks under their oversight. This role would include assisting with community education toward the holistic use of the Newark’s parks.

The Newark Trust for Education provides support to YouthBuild Newark for its sister school, Newark Leadership Academy (NLA).

An MLK Day of Service Makeover

In celebration of the Dr. Martin Luther King (MLK) Day of Service on January 21, 2013, YouthBuild Newark (YBN) and Jersey Cares collaborated to beautify the space at YBN’s sister school, the Newark Leadership Academy (NLA). Convening at 8:00 am, staff and students gathered to paint a brightly-colored mural – that had been designed by NLA students and teachers – in the soon-to-be student lounge, and to repaint hallway doors and lockers in the Academy’s school colors.

Students and staff from YBN and NLA coordinated the day’s efforts, working with several volunteers who had learned about the event through Jersey Cares. The project offered students the occasion to recognize the value of their work and enhance their understanding of what it means to serve. As an AmeriCorps program, YBN has always been dedicated to providing students with diverse service-learning opportunities including partnering with the Greater Newark Conservancy to create community gardens and with Jersey Cares to paint West Side High School in previous years.
YBN is deeply grateful to Jersey Cares and to those volunteers who chose to spend a day in service with us. We look forward to continuing to collaborate to rebuild and revitalize Newark!

About Jersey Cares

Jersey Cares, a nonprofit organization established in 1993, recruits and engages volunteers in rewarding, effective efforts that address community-identified needs. It partners with local nonprofits to identify needs and implement volunteer projects to meet these needs. Jersey Cares provides individuals, families, corporate employees and community groups with a wide variety of volunteer opportunities that range from tutoring children to painting new murals in schools.

YouthBuild Newark Graduates Continue to Succeed

Five YouthBuild Newark, Inc. (YBN) graduates celebrated a significant accomplishment on October 26, 2012 when they successfully completed the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice’s (NJISJ) Construction Trades Pre-Apprenticeship Program. Complementing YBN’s construction training, the initiative consists of a rigorous, 10-week curriculum that prepares participants for successful entry into New Jersey’s labor unions.

Mark Fowler, YBN Class of 2010; Jeremy Reddick, YBN Class of 2010; Shaquana Stevens, YBN Class of 2011; Alexandra Truesdale, YBN Class of 2010; and Nelson Pryce, Newark Leadership Academy graduate and Valedictorian celebrated their achievement at PSEG’s headquarters with family and friends. Albert Williams, NJISJ’s Director of Workforce Development and Training, stated that YBN graduates’ drive and ability to excel in the program, created a very positive impression of the capabilities of 18 to 24 year old young adults. Selected as Graduate Speaker, Jeremy Reddick spoke about the caring, yet candid approach of the NJISJ staff. Having reinvigorated his drive to learn and succeed, he says, “The whole process was a learning experience. I would promote it, tell people.”

In order to gain admission, applicants had to complete an academic assessment, undergo an interview conducted by a panel of NJISJ staff and a complete a drug screening. Upon conclusion of the program, NJISJ offers participants job placement assistance and continued support.

As of November 8, 2012, all five YouthBuild Newark graduates have successfully obtained employment.

The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice (NJSIJ) is a Newark-based urban research and advocacy organization dedicated to the advancement of New Jersey’s urban areas and residents. For more information, visit http://www.njisj.org/about/our-mission/.

Graduate Spotlight Walter Zellars

When Walter Zellars enrolled at YBN, he brought with him a long history of involvement with the criminal justice system, family instability and trauma. He was initially reserved, showing little emotion, except in moments of anger and found it difficult to positively interact with his peers. Gradually, Walter came to view YBN as a safe haven, eventually revealing that his behavior was the result of deeply embedded trust issues. He had been let down by his family and several people who he had considered friends. Anti-social behavior was a way to avoid additional violations of his trust. In finally opening up, Walter took a step toward transforming his perspective and ultimately, his life trajectory.

Walter soon became extremely driven to change his life. Being proactive, he decided to be a guest speaker at the Essex County Prosecutor Office’s first all male youth conference, “From Boys to Men” in March 2012. He simultaneously completed his college applications and Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Walter also took on the task of applying to the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), which involved a rigorous submission process. He was responsible for completing a lengthy application, securing references, obtaining his disposition paperwork for all his court cases – which in itself is quite a feat – all while meeting stringent timelines. When he received word that his admittance to NCCC had been rescinded because of his criminal history, Walter fought even harder. He was proactive in addressing the situation and began working to secure letters of support even before YBN staffers had done so. Because of his hard work, dedication and commitment to transforming his life, Walter is now an NCCC Corps member stationed in Denver, CO. He is enjoying meeting new people and having new experiences. Most importantly, for the first time in his life, Walter is free to be Walter – not a Blood, an ex-con, or a thug – but a young man who is full of promise and has the rest of his life to fulfill his potential.

Director of Program Development Transitions to New Jersey Office of Adolescent Services

After nearly a decade of working to support, strengthen and expand YBN’s youth development programs, in September 2012, Director of Program Development Kelli Puryear transitioned to a new role as the governor-appointed Associate Director of the New Jersey Office of Adolescent Services.

Ms. Puryear first joined YBN in 2003 within a consultant capacity where she developed processes for optimizing YBN’s initial growth. Within her most recent position as Director of Program Development, Ms. Puryear managed all aspects of service delivery and oversaw YBN’s Intermediary Initiative, which comprises the statewide replication of the agency’s youthful offender program model in Jersey City, Atlantic City, Passaic, and Elizabeth.

Dedicated to, among other things, executing organizational development strategies that ultimately ensured agency effectiveness, Ms. Puryear played a pivotal role in charting YBN to its status as one of New Jersey’s most reputable youth development agencies. Yet beyond her professional contributions, Kelli positively impacted the YBN community in other ways, including mentoring fellow staffers.

Ms. Puryear recently completed the Robert Wood Johnson Ladders to Leadership program where she had the opportunity to enhance her leadership capacity through a curriculum designed for community-based nonprofit health organizations serving vulnerable populations.

A Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Ms. Puryear is a doctoral student at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management and earned a Masters in Social Work from Rutgers University School of Social Work.

YBN is immensely grateful for Kelli’s significant contribution to the agency’s youth development efforts and foresees her continuing a lengthy career of service to those most in need.

Shalom: Youthbuild Newark Welcomes Youthbuild Israel

NEWARK, NJ – October 22, 2012 – In a move to support effective at-risk youth development on a global scale, on October 15, 2012, YouthBuild Newark, Inc. (YBN) hosted youth development program YouthBuild Israel (YBIL) in Newark, New Jersey to share best practices and foster international learning.

Throughout the full day of knowledge-exchange, YBIL liaised with YBN’s Deputy Executive Director and other senior management staff; visited Newark Leadership Academy (NLA) -- YBN’s alternative vocational high school established in partnership with the Newark Public Schools (NPS); and lunched with YBN graduates. The group of diversely skilled professionals also toured one of YBN’s affordable housing sites (rehabbed by students) and visited the agency’s Independent Living Program, a transitional housing initiative that serves to further support students and graduates on the path to self-sufficiency.

In addition to YBIL’s Chairperson and Founder, and an YBIL Board Member, representatives from the National Insurance Institute of Israel – the country’s equivalent of the U.S. Department of Social Security, the Ministry of Welfare, and the Israeli Association of Community Centers also took part in the visit. Speaking at length with YBN’s frontline staff, YBIL expressed high regard for the agency’s holistic program culture and the obvious level of passion for serving disconnected young adults displayed by YBN staffers.

“The students and staff increased our understanding of the powerful impact that the YouthBuild program has on young people and the community.  We are so grateful to learn from YouthBuild Newark and are excited to bring these lessons back to Israel to support low-income young people in our country,” said Chairperson and Founder Dr. Edna Bustin. The group frequently vocalized their interest and intent in applying the recommendations gained from graduates and staff to the YBIL program.

Upon viewing one of YBN’s affordable housing projects on South 10th Street in the City’s West Ward, the group conveyed their admiration for the quality of students’ craftsmanship. YBN students’ commitment to fully applying the competence gained through their vocational learning has enabled YBN to consistently construct and make available affordable housing to low-income first-time homebuyers, thus contributing to Newark’s community development efforts.

Director of International Field Operations at YouthBuild International Laura Bennet stated, “YouthBuild Newark is helping young people to transform their lives and position themselves for successful careers while they rebuild the local community.  The delegation from YouthBuild Israel was inspired by their dialogue with students and staff – and it was great to see the YouthBuild Newark students sharing insights and recommendations to benefit our partners and young people in Israel.”

With a comparable population of disconnected young adults and a socio-economic environment similarly characterized by high unemployment and violence, YBN and YBIL are mutually invested in helping marginalized young adults develop the skills needed to transform their lives and communities. According to YBIL, “Fifteen percent (350,000) of youth growing up in Israel are considered ‘at-risk.’ The unemployment rate for women and men ages 15-24 is 19 percent, which is roughly twice the rate of adults. In addition, 60 percent of young people do not enter college or technical training following military service and unemployed youth represent more than a quarter of the unemployed.” With YBIL located only 30 miles from the notoriously violence-ridden Gaza strip, the need to sustain a youth development program in the area is evident.

Organized by YouthBuild International, which works to support the adaptation and replication of the YouthBuild model around the world, YBIL’s visit was a move to support its efforts to establish a large-scale permanent program in the historic city of Lod and to institutionalize the program within the government.

With YBN having previously hosted YouthBuild South Africa and YouthBuild Brazil, YBIL is the third international program to approach YBN for guidance on how to positively impact disadvantaged young adults. A contingency from Kenya has also expressed interest in visiting YBN to garner insight on how to implement successful youth programming. YBIL’s visit further speaks to YBN’s presence as a national model for holistic youth development.

Nearing a decade in service, YouthBuild Newark, Inc. (YBN) (www.youthbuildnewarknj.org) is a youth and community development agency that works to help low-income 16 to 24 year old disconnected youth and young adults improve their life trajectory and lead productive, self-sufficient lives. With offices centrally located in Newark, New Jersey, YBN has programmatic impact in four (4) other high-need cities throughout the State of New Jersey. In September 2011, YBN also introduced its proven youth development model to Newark Public Schools (NPS) when it launched Newark Leadership Academy (NLA), an alternative vocational high school for over-aged and under-credited 16 to 20 year old youth. YBN’s program is based upon the national YouthBuild model, which has received bi-partisan political support since its inception in 1978.

Launched in 2007, YouthBuild Israel (YBIL) (http://www.youthbuildinternational.org/israel) is a multi-sector initiative designed to engage Israel’s most marginalized young adults (18-28) in a program to increase their economic security through employment or self-employment and to improve communities through the creation of tangible assets such houses, schools, environmental upgrades, youth enterprises, and community centers. In partnership with several government ministries, NGOs, donors, and private sector partners, YBIL is piloting the program in Be’re Sheva/Dimona, Beit She’an, Akko, Ofakim, and Kisra s’mia with adaptations for the Israeli context.

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 mlassiter@uwewh.org

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 www.unitedwayessex.org.

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.