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