Highlight on Kaltoum Elwazna

The Project Coordinator Fellowship (PCF) program works tirelessly to close the opportunity gap of low to moderate income Essex County young adults between the ages of 16-24.  The PCF program aims to enhance professional development and reduce youth unemployment for young people who live in and around Newark. Read on to hear the experience of one of the 150 fellows who benefit from the PCF program each year.

Kaltoum Elwazna is currently a senior at William Paterson University studying towards her bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Technology. When not attending classes, Kaltoum is a member of the National Honor Society and takes time to draw and make stickers!

Kaltoum at ASP Desk

Kaltoum spent her PCF internship with All Stars Project of New Jersey. All Stars Project (ASP) is a national nonprofit that uses a performance-based approach to help tens of thousands of inner-city youth and their families create success in their lives. ASP believes that afterschool is the best time to bring young people growing up in poor communities into the mainstream. They start to connect to opportunities, to the world of success, to the business community and all sorts of experiences that are far from where they come from, sparking their desire to learn and grow. When asked about her time at ASP, Kaltoum stated:

While interning, I have learned about different software for collecting data. I have completed multiple projects for the Development School for Youth program (DSY) like collecting data from surveys and inputting all participants information into Smartsheets. I gained better organization skills and multitasking skills because now I get up to 3 projects to do every day and they all need to get done. This helps me with school projects and staying organized on all assignments.”

Not only has Kaltoum successfully graduated the PCF program, she also received a part-time position at ASP! When discussing her employment opportunities and future goals, Kaltoum remarked that:

My current position at All Stars is the administrative assistant and I received this part-time position after the 3 months of diligently organizing data and inputting information the best that I could to help the All Stars Project stay more organized. After this position, I plan on being an app developer for a bigger company someday.”

PCF experiences such as Kaltoum’s could not be possible without the support and mentorship of individuals like you! If you’re interested in getting involved in the Project Coordinator Fellowship program, as either a fellow, sponsor, or leader, click here to learn more.

Engineering, Entrepreneurship and Social Justice

Juan Camacho and Stephany Ayala
Jersey Cares’ PCF Fellows

What’s the first word that comes to mind when you hear innovation? Creative, new, original? ATMs are probably not included in that list. For two fellows in the Jersey Cares’ Project Coordinator Fellowship (PCF), Stephany Ayala and Juan Camacho, ATMs became a proposed innovative community solution during their internship at the I Have A Dream Foundation – Newark (IHDF-NJ). 

Stephany and Juan are PCF interns.  The PCF connects young people between the ages of 16 and 24 in Newark with opportunities.  With a unique collaboration between corporate partners, non-profit organizations and young people from low-to-moderate-income families, fellows learn valuable career skills which they put into practice at Newark non-profits.  While participating in workforce development workshops facilitated by corporate partners, and mentorship from Jersey Cares, students help build the capacity of local non-profits, putting their newly developed skills to work as interns. 

Juan and Stephany meet with their PCF Mentors, Anthony Barley and Janique Sanders

Although Stephany and Juan worked on multiple projects during their time at IHDF-NJ, ATMs became a focus for the team.  In observing local businesses in the West Ward of Newark, the students realized there was a surplus of ATMs located in the neighborhood.  Juan shared, “ATMs are considered a business and in the West Ward, they [ATMs] account for 16% of all businesses. In comparison to only 2% in New Jersey.”  Stephany continued, “The people of the neighborhood have limited access to banks and ATMs are usually easier to get to. They are always in different stores who have card limits or do not accept cards. This is an example of a social engineering project.”

The team related that the profit from the ATMs are typically attributed to the individual owner and those funds rarely are circulated back into the community. The team recognized a link between engineering, entrepreneurship and social justice and the opportunity to put an innovative solution in place.  With the support of their supervisor, Yolanda Gadson, the two fellows began developing solutions that would benefit the community. Stephany and Juan developed the idea of the creation of community owned ATMs that would be operated and maintained by a community group. The community group would reinvest the profits made from fees back into the community to fund after-school programs, feed and provide resources for underserved populations, and other community programs and initiatives. This cycle would put communal interest at the forefront in local conversations. They imagined creating a platform for local businesses to use a portion of their profits to help fund revitalization projects within the community– in schools, community centers and other local institutions. They would schedule town hall meetings to introduce the business owners to the community members to understand who their donations are helping.

Yolanda Gadson
Executive Director
I Have a Dream Foundation – Newark

Stephany and Juan’s supervisor, Yolanda Gadson, Executive Director, IHDF-NJ, raved about the two fellows and the work they have completed while interning. She was so thrilled by their capabilities that both students have been offered continued opportunities to work with the foundation after the completion of their internship. She highlights the impact of having two young people, especially two young people of color, to help explain how engineering relates to everyday life. Gadson states, “It’s not often you have interns come together and they work, but they really work. They make time for something outside themselves. I go to them and ask for their voices, because their voices matter. They were such a positive and professional light in the office.”

Juan and Stephany are rising sophomores at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) where they are studying engineering. Both fellows are heavily involved in various campus organizations such as the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, where they both are executive board members, and the Robotics Club. These two outstanding students also mentor Dreamer populations, help create and facilitate interactive STEM workshops for Pre-K children, and are working on a sustainable schoolyard revitalization project at 13th Ave School in Newark’s West Ward community. They made a commitment to go above and beyond and are shining examples of the power of people to be the change they want to see in their own community.   

Making A Difference: Before I Go…A Word of Thanks!

fellowship-photo-august-2018-e1531839000681.pngFellows of the Citi Pathways to Progress Project Coordinator Fellowship finalize their internship experience with a Demonstration Day in which students have the opportunity to present on their experience working with one of our partner nonprofit organizations. At this stage in the internship program, students have completed all of their requirements and have finished the program.

 

However, in this case, fellow, Jenika Scott, felt that she had left some words unspoken. Mentor and Program Manager, Sierra Jackson, received this email following the success of Jenika’s internship:

“Good afternoon Sierra,

I’ve been writing and rewriting this email over a thousand times trying to figure out the right words to say.

After all, what do you say to a person when the word thank you is simply not enough? I am not an English major, so, I cannot give you any tremendous words of Latin and Greek origins. So, for a lack of better words, thank you.

Thank you for all that you have done for me. From constantly reminding me to go to the workshops, to the proper way to dress, and to following up on interviews; all of this has ensured that I received the best out of my internship. But really, thank you for being that supportive person to a stranger you just met. I do appreciate all that you have done for me and no matter where this life leads us, I want you to know that I am happy to have met you.

Thank you for always being there.

Most Sincerely,

Jenika Scott”

Leaders Who Mentor Future Trailblazers

Before starting the Project Coordinator Fellowship at Jersey Cares, Elida Abreu was wading through a pool of uneasiness. However, with her mentor’s advisement, she championed a job interview and has a renewed confidence. Jersey Cares’ 10-week internship program provides more than just an internship experience with diverse assignments. The program offers an opportunity for interns to learn workforce development skills with corporate employees in conjunction with a mentor. This mentorship aides Jersey Cares interns as they maneuver through new challenges and see the fruits of their labor.elida-abreu-pcf-2018.png

Included is a snippet of the coaching conversation Abreu had with her mentor before her interview. The dialogue shows that our mentors aren’t solely focused on meeting business quotas. Instead, our mentors invest in the development of a fellow’s skills.

Intern: “The human resources department from NJ PAC just emailed me for an interview… I do want to go through some pointers.”

Mentor: “What do you need pointers on?”

Intern: “I wanted to know what’s the best way to present myself and what to bring.”

Mentor:  “Sure, here are a few tips for success.”

-Always bring a copy of your resume

-Dress Professionally

-Arrive early

-Prepare questions; interview them just as much as they interview you

Intern: “Thank you for everything you told me, I know I’ll do well today.”

*** Mentor Coaching After Interview

Mentor: “How’d it go?”

Intern: “It went great, they were really friendly, and they want me to start in Mid- May.”

Mentor: “Yayyyyy How are you feeling?”

Intern: “Very excited and wanting to get involved.”

Upon completion of the Jersey Cares Project Coordinator Fellowship, one will realize that they’re well equipped to thrive in professional environments. Before her interview, Elida told her mentor, “Thank you for everything you told me, I know I’ll do well today.” Sometimes, we merely need a few words of encouragement. Jersey Cares congratulates Elida Abreu for being awarded an internship placement at NJPAC as a Graphic Design Intern in the Creative Services/Marketing Department. Her work as a New Media Technology student at Essex County College will not go unnoticed at NJPAC as she carries the lessons she learned with Jersey Cares. To learn more about the Jersey Cares Project Coordinator Fellowship, click here.

Can You Paint a Project Management Room With Your Genius Gifts?

The new and exciting Jersey Cares Project Coordinator Fellowship exposes our young people to workforce trainings, internships & employment opportunities. Case in point: a recent Workforce Development Training session at Prudential Financial, Inc. in the heart of downtown Newark, where students from Rutgers, NJIT and ECC learned about Project Management and Leadership Competencies. Nervous students uncertain of what to expect walked into an unfamiliar world the second they entered the building: professionals at the front security desk announcing their arrivals, other students patiently waiting for elevators that would bring them up to meetings, while some proceeded through the lobby for routine security checks to await their host. Our young people witnessed Prudential corporate culture, a culture of business, efficiency, and expediency even before entering a room – exposure indeed.Genius Gifts

Work Breakdown Structure. Planning Phase. Timeline. Risk Analysis. Deliverables. Change request. They are all phrases innate to project management and simple on paper, yet weighty in nature and execution. They were explained best, however, by Prudential facilitators Jessica Battle, Director of Process Management and Stacey Green, Project Manager, through the announced task and case scenario: “Let’s paint a room!” A simple task, but is it really? Students broke into groups to discuss: What exactly does the client want? What about supplies? How many people will be needed to do the job? Do we want friends or professionals? Does yellow paint cost more than blue? When did the plan change? How?

The session, “was helpful to my understanding of getting stuff done,” noted one Rutgers student, Naa Adei Kotey. “With the room, my thought was to just get up and paint, but you need to think about the details involved. It made me think about myself and how I approach things.” Of course, project management was not taught to its fullest in a couple of hours. Highlighting its key elements in a relatable way was a poignant start, as was acknowledging that students work on projects all the time, however unaware.

The training continued with Leadership Competencies led by Prudential’s Francine Chew, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility. There was a candid discussion that moved from having a strong moral compass to the importance of being aligned with a company’s vision and mission statements to help students set themselves up for success. “I know a lot of people who work in an industry just to make money,” said Rutgers student, Christian Illescas. “Money is necessary, but I like to give back and I like that she highlighted the importance of looking at companies to understand how they do that.”

“What’s your genius gift?” Francine Chew later asked. “That something that comes effortlessly where there are tons of people who can’t do that thing, whatever it is, nearly as well.”  She stressed that as an effective leader, you have to hone in on yourself and work deliberately to understand not only your ebbs and flows of productivity, but what you’re really good at — and then intentionally use that information to help elevate yourself to the next level. “This opportunity is making me review what matters and managing for example, a business plan. It’s forcing me to think more about what I want to do — what would make me happy,” remarked ECC student, Jailene Galvanes. “This experience is definitely different than going to class!”

Self-examination. Painting rooms. Professional training. Intentionality. Project ambiguity. Expertise. Genius gifts.   Project college graduation. Professional feedback. Prudential workforce development training. Exposure indeed.