$3.75 million fund to increase access to apprenticeships, internships and vocational training for youth across the United States
Livingston, NJ (October 30, 2018) – The Citi Foundation recently announced that Jersey Cares has been awarded a $250,000 grant from their 2018 Youth Workforce Fund, a national initiative that is supporting community organizations in key cities across the United States to help them expand their programming and connect low-income youth to a range of employment opportunities.
The Youth Workforce Fund is part of the Citi Foundation’s three year $100MM global Pathways to Progress initiative, which focuses on career readiness initiatives that provide youth job seekers the full range of services needed for long-term employment and economic success.
Through the Youth Workforce Fund, Jersey Cares will receive a grant of $250,000 to address the disconnect between workforce development training and employment opportunities for young adults in Newark &/or Essex County, NJ. Specifically, students will have the cross-sector experience of receiving workforce development training from major companies, and then direct application of those skills through internships at local nonprofits. Jersey Cares will also have access to technical assistance and opportunities to share best practices with other community organizations that are a part of this initiative.
“The existing gap between having the skills necessary to succeed in the workforce and working at productive and sustaining jobs continues to prevent any financial stability for our young people and their families,” said Freeholder of Essex County, Robert Mercado. “We are thrilled to work with Jersey Cares and the Citi Foundation to improve this serious concern. Through the Jersey Cares’ Project Coordinator Fellowship, our young people are being equipped not just to live but to thrive.”
Access to apprenticeships, internships and vocational training is essential to empowering youth and preparing them to compete in today’s economy. According to the Citi Foundation’s Global Youth Survey: Economic Prospects & Expectations, 78% of young people surveyed believe that internships and apprenticeships are critical for career success, however, 60% say there aren’t enough of these opportunities in their cities.
About the Citi Foundation
The Citi Foundation works to promote economic progress and improve the lives of people in low-income communities around the world. We invest in efforts that increase financial inclusion, catalyze job opportunities for youth, and reimagine approaches to building economically vibrant cities. The Citi Foundation’s “More than Philanthropy” approach leverages the enormous expertise of Citi and its people to fulfill our mission and drive thought leadership and innovation. For more information, visit www.citifoundation.com.
Who is Care of the Park will be a recurring series aimed at painting a picture of the people that make the program possible. From star volunteers to Park staff, this series will shine a light on who is Care of the Park and why they give back.
Emily Guo is a high school senior attending The Lawrenceville School. Passionate about service and sustainability, Emily reached out to Jersey Cares about volunteering at Essex County Branch Brook Park and the Care of the Park program. For 6 weeks, Emily volunteered as a Peer Leader, working with 11 high school students working for Care of the Park as part of the Summer Youth Employment Program. Below is an interview with Emily discussing her experiences as a Care of the Park volunteer:
Why do you volunteer?
“Before high school I never did any kind of volunteering. I really felt unmotivated. I always had an interest in sustainability and decided to search for those opportunities in high school. Once I started volunteering, being able to help others helped give me a purpose and motivation. I could give back to my community and have meaningful experiences, so it was kind of a win-win situation for me.”
What compelled you to volunteer with Care of the Park?
“Really it lined up with my own personal interests since I’ve always been passionate about the environment. I didn’t know much about Care of the Park or the Summer Youth Employment Program initially, but as I learned more I was excited. I was looking forward to working with people my age who had a shared mindset for making a difference. Doing all that while working in a beautiful park was just a bonus.”
What was your favorite moment volunteering in the park?
“It’s really hard to pick a specific moment. The first week of the program was awkward with the Park Ambassadors not really knowing each other. It wasn’t easy to get them to socialize or speak up, but as they got more comfortable working in the park and with each other that all changed. I’d say my favorite moment was when we came into work and I could see them being comfortable with each other and meaningful relationships being built. It made working together even more fun and the experience in the park even better.”
What was your biggest takeaway from your volunteer experience?
“The biggest thing I learned was understanding the perspective of others. My background was so different from the other Park Ambassadors and being able to learn about them helped me branch out my own views of the world. Learning about their passions and what mattered to each of them really opened my eyes. I found it both refreshing and inspiring.”
What advice would you give someone who’s thinking about volunteering?
“I’d say you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. It’s hard to put it into words what exactly I gained, but volunteering has been such a transformative experience. I could see the growth not just in me, but the other volunteers around me. You get all that and get to make a positive impact on a community. Walking through the park and seeing people enjoy the places I worked in was so worthwhile. You may not see the difference yourself, but people in the community definitely will. And that will make the few hours you spend volunteering totally worth it.”
What does Care of the Park mean to you?
“It was really a transformative experience. I went in there looking to use my skills to contribute and make a difference. But working with Care of the Park, the most valuable part was working with the volunteers and getting to know each of them. Working with our volunteer leaders (Jersey Cares staff and the Rutgers Master Gardeners leading the projects) I felt like they cared about getting to know us and really humanized the experience. I was fortunate enough to be able to help others, but I also gained so much from the people I worked with. To me, Care of the Park is the great people you get to work with.”
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.
Sister 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.
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.
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!
Fellows 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.
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.
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
-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.