By Women, For Women

Nestled in the heart of Elizabeth, New Jersey lies a hidden gem dedicated to empowering local women through skills training and development. Founded by the Sisters of Charity in 2003, Josephine’s Place is a safe space for women that seeks to provide free services ranging from Computer Skills workshops to support groups for any local woman in need of assistance.

Josephine_s Place-September 2018Sister Judy Mertz and those who work at Josephine’s Place always strive to ensure that their services meet the demands of those looking to receive them. Sister Judy recalls the initial founding of the facility, noting that “When we opened the doors on October 1st, 2003, we made sure to ask the women who came in what they wanted and needed. Many of them said they wanted to learn English or develop their computer skills”, workshops that the facility still provides on a regular basis. Participants are encouraged to take active leadership roles, often guiding new women in group activities.

The need for expansion was quick as more and more women came to hear about their work. Sister Judy notes the great success that many of those who have come to Josephine’s place have achieved, 2 of which have even moved on to start their own businesses. The community-based nature of the facility has fostered a strong “pay it forward” mentality. Many of those who received skills-based services in the past return to lead workshops themselves. In fact, several volunteers who frequent Josephine’s Place are the children and grandchildren of women who have benefited from their services.

For many women, Josephine’s place is not just a safe space, but a warm community. If you would like to learn more about Josephine’s Place and support their work, please consider signing up to volunteer! We offer several opportunities including Computer Essentials I, Computer Essentials II, and Conversations and Connections. Note: Volunteers must be female to sign up.

Making Time to Make A Difference

With school back in session, we understand that it can be hard to balance both academics and community service. New schedules, new courses, it’s a lot to take in! For Jersey Cares Project Coordinator and Rutgers New Brunswick Senior, Dominick DiCarlo, civic engagement is a vital part of his college experience.Dominick DiCarlo-September 2018

Looking for ways to make a positive difference during his free time, Jersey Cares provided both the tools and platform necessary to do just that. “I started volunteering with Jersey Cares because I wanted to become more involved in my community, both at home and at school. My desire to volunteer increased significantly while in college, specifically in the areas of hunger and homelessness, due to the surprisingly high level of students at my university and residents in the community who were food insecure.”

According to Dominick, community service is “a very important, if not THE most important, thing to be involved in outside of school work”. He attributes civic engagement both to his current success as well as his personal fulfillment. “Service blends real-world experience with people, which can be applied to almost any job you could think of, with tons of other skills, like the ability to improvise, work in a team, and communicate. You grow these skills, all while supporting others who need help, making you feel empowered as you’ve helped make a positive impact on other people’s lives”.

In fact, when they aren’t hitting the books, Dominick and his peers serve on the executive board of the flagship Rutgers Cares club, an organization that connects Rutgers New Brunswick students with local Jersey Cares opportunities. Aside from their participation in recurring Jersey Cares opportunities, the club conducts mini service opportunities, and work with other Rutgers organizations to coordinate collection drives. Last year alone, they collected over 250 pounds of food for the Rutgers Student Food Pantry and grocery bags of toiletries for the Jersey Cares First-Night Kits!

While his ability to manage service on top of school work may appear superhuman, for Dominick, it’s all about discipline and time management.

” You have to decide that you want to volunteer early, and build it into your schedule, so that you can still have time for work, as well as leisure time to relax. By planning ahead, you ensure that you can successfully balance your school work and volunteer work, and leisure time without being overwhelmed or sacrificing one for the others. It’s also good to start off with a light volunteer schedule and then progressively add more events. When you’re eager to start volunteering, you want to be as active as possible, but you also want to make sure not to overload your schedule, which may stress you out or cause you to back out of some of the events. For example, last school year I volunteered with a food pantry every-other Friday for the first semester, and then bumped my volunteering to every Friday.”

So, if the new school year has you skeptical about continuing community service, take a page from Dominick’s book and start off slow. Once you find an opportunity that you really connect with, making time to make a difference becomes a piece of cake. Head to our volunteer opportunity calendar to check out upcoming opportunities near you!

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.

Denise Beckles – International Women’s Day

Denise Beckles

Director, Vocational Services

The Arc Middlesex County

denise becklesWhat inspired you to get involved?

The People. They are some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met. I am a Diversity Management Leader and an advocate for growth and development. I’m especially drawn to the under-served people. My heart is to make a difference in their lives. In my diversity leadership work—I’ve been especially moved by the tenacity, the warmth, openness, struggles and needs of those with disabilities and those who have health disparities. This demographic is the most underserved in our nation; yet they are resilient despite disparities. What I have discovered is that all people usually want the same things out of life, love, purpose, resources and security.

I have the privilege to use my corporate skillset, my compassion for the underserved and my love for teaching everyday as I provide leadership for the Vocational Program of the Arc Middlesex County

What keeps you motivated?

The People.  The Individuals who need support and have an expressed desire to learn vital life, community, safety, vocational, social skills, to live fuller lives. My Staff—who have a heart to serve those in need and advocate for their best interests to be achieved. My Leadership-who have a vision and mission to help Individuals achieve success and become their best self. Results motivate me; when I see tangible results, improvement in a task or happiness as a result of fulfillment. I believe to teach is to touch a life forever. My goal is to touch a life; one person at a time.

What are your hopes for the future of the organization?Arc-logo

My greatest desire is for the Arc Middlesex County to become the obvious choice when families and loved ones are seeking services, whether day programming/vocational, residential, employment support and family support. We are here to serve.

 

 

Karima Jackson – International Women’s Day

Karima Jackson

Organize Change, Inc.

What inspired you to get involved?karima
Among values such as family, religion, and education that I was taught growing up, community was also very important. My family modeled active citizenship and civic participation so I learned very early that I have a responsibility to my community.

What keeps you motivated?
I am largely motivated by my passion around social justice and the hard work done by community activists before me like my great aunt who passed away in 2014 at the age of 80. When you realize the sacrifices people like her made for their community, it’s hard not to pull up your sleeves and do your best to fill as much of the big shoes they left behind. I stand on the shoulder of giants and I’m only as good as my awesome team.
What is your hope for the future of your program/organization?

2f0b73_565118555da54ae3856d2bff69ada145
My hope for my organization is that we spur a similar responsibility to community in the youth we work with so they have the tools and the passion to take the torch of leadership in their communities and be the agents of change we need for the future.

Lisa D. Banks – International Women’s Day

Lisa D. Banks

Preschool Program Director

Mercer Street Friends

What inspired you to get involved?

lisa banksI have been inspired to work with young children from a very young age, I always wanted to be a teacher.  I was raised by my grandparents, being the oldest I was responsible for caring for my siblings at a very young age making sure they were clean, neat and loved, even teaching my baby brother to read.  I care about the young children in our care making sure they are safe and learning in a positive, nurturing environment where children can learn and have fun as they grow, I have an excellent staff, some of the greatest Preschool Teachers around and I could not do my job without them.

What keeps you motivated?

What keeps me motivated is watching the children grow, it’s an unexplained joy that I get watching the children and parents enter our doors, not sure of what to expect, then seeing them happy and comfortable leaving their children in our care and the children not wanting to leave.  It is beautiful to see the children transition from Preschool to Kindergarten and watching them learn throughout the year.

 

What is your hope for the future of your program/organization?

logoMy hope for our program and organization is that we continue to make a positive difference in the lives of the children we teach.  It is a blessing when families keep coming back for the wonderful services that we offer.  Our greatest testimonies come by “word of mouth.”

 

Jennifer Amaya – International Women’s Day

Jennifer Amaya

Director of Outreach and Prevention

Visions and Pathways

What inspired you to get involved?logo-white

I’ve had a passion for working with at risk youth vp-team-jennifer-amayasince I was younger. I always have and always will enjoy the grass roots interaction that I have with these youth. They are our future and we should all be working to lift them up to reach their potential.

What keeps you motivated?

I am motivated by every youth that takes the steps to make their situation better. Whether it is just making the call to us for food, hygiene or food, reaching out for housing, asking for employment assistance or getting back into school. These are big steps for the youth we work with and I am motivated by their courage, perseverance and willingness to do better, be better.

What is your hope for the future of your program/organization?

mkwlaMxZ_400x400My hope for Visions and Pathways is that we will continue to help those youth in need and be the place they call for someone to turn to. I would hope that more and more people would use us as a preventative resource, to reduce the severity that situations can turn into and limit the amount of trauma that can accompany these situations.

Marla Higginbotham – International Women’s Day

Marla Higginbotham

Executive Director

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Union County

Marla Higginbotham

What inspired you to get involved?

For the past 20 years, beginning with my senior thesis in college on alternative education choices for black inner- city students and my first job at the National Governor’s Association working with states to implement the National Education Goals, I have been steadfast in my commitment to the protection, safety, education and enhancement of young minds.  Currently, I am Executive Director of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Union County, leading a team of outstanding individuals in serving and advocating for the most-vulnerable individuals in the county — children placed in foster care after being removed from their homes due to neglect, abuse or abandonment. casaCASA staff and volunteers truly make a difference in the lives of young, deserving individuals who often have limited sources of assistance and no other inspiration in their lives.

What keeps you motivated?

Results. This is my most-important motivator. Each month when I look at advocate reports submitted to the court I see how we directly impact the lives of foster children right here in Union County and feel especially motivated. Every month there is at least one special case that inspires me on a greater level. Over the holidays, it was 7-year-old IQ, who had been in foster care three years and was formally adopted by his older sister, a young woman in her early 20s just becoming an adult herself; nevertheless, she was unwaveringly committed to bringing her family back together. Real stories. Real inspiration.

What are your hopes for the future of the organization?

My hope for the future of the organization can be summed up in one word: growth. We must continue to grow the number of fragile children served. The initial cause for a child’s removal from home and placement in foster homes or residential facilities is traumatic enough; yet it is compounded when the child is most often placed with strangers in an unfamiliar environment, and this can last average 18 to 24 months. There are 560 Union County children in foster care right now and CASA of Union County currently serve 262. There’s still more work to be done. For many of these children, no matter how many times a placement changes, their CASA volunteer is the only constant in their life. Every day we continue to strive to reach our goal of providing a CASA volunteer for every Union County foster child. That is CASA of Union County’s future.