"I'm thankful for the Rutgers Youth Success Center for assisting me with overcoming situations that would potentially be a barrier if not in the program, especially with school."
Distrusting from the start, Isaiah asked for help but didn't believe he was going to get the help he was asking for. He had bought into the hype of others' perceptions of him and developed patterns of behavior that fit right into that hype. If the doors weren't closed to him from the start, Isaiah is able to see now that he would find a way to close them. The path to our open door was riddled with unfulfilled promises and self-fulfilling prophecies. Therefore, his first inclination when meeting our staff was to remain guarded and angry—we conducted the intake interview on his front porch, and none of us saw the inside of the house until Program Coordinator Naombi had taken time to build a solid trusting relationship. Her persistence in breaking down barriers and reopening some of those doors was what Isaiah had been hoping for prior to Rutgers Youth Success Center's involvement. Her belief in him was infallible, and brand new to him.
"Ms. Naombi and Rutgers helped me at a time when I had exhausted my resources and couldn't see past my own mistakes and how others had treated me."
Isaiah's main goal from the start was to finish his education. This was no easy task ahead, as he had all those doors closed to him along the way. Before ever coming to the Youth Success Center, he had been to numerous schools and programs, and had a long pattern of rejecting and being rejected. Naombi was able to reframe that as a positive attribute, attesting to his repeated, even if failed, efforts. The fact that he had tried so many different pathways to success gave a huge clue for how to overcome these challenges. Together, they were able to salvage some of that fighter's edge to be encouraged to give it one more go.
Despite his resilience in at least trying different settings, Isaiah admits his tendency was to set up his own barriers and then blame others when things fell apart. By examining this pattern with his Case Manager, he's been able to erode that pattern and take responsibility for his actions. By utilizing a strengths-based approach, and helping Isaiah identify what he has to offer and develop techniques for handling frustrations, Naombi and Isaiah were able to navigate to a safe place where he could grow and thrive.
"I have to thank Ms. Naombi for giving me a second chance. Now I expect to graduate next year and am thinking about college! Once I saw her believing in me, I started to believe in myself and change my view of the world."
Isaiah has been able to steer clear of some of the negatives that were getting in the way prior to our involvement. He attributes this change in self-perception and his place in the world to the team approach here, and to Naombi reaching out to different schools and providers to speak on his behalf. He was able to regain trust of perceived authority figures, and gain confidence in his own abilities. With this newfound strength, Isaiah has been able to demonstrate success and a steady stewardship of his educational pathway and career exploration. His positive energy and attitude is infectious, and now that he has shed some of that distrust and anger he is finding new doors opening for him and anticipates continued success even in these strange isolating times.
Isaiah is currently enrolled in school and participating remotely, like the rest of us in this strange new world. He is coping and handling this moment better than some—after all, he's been through so much that these kinds of adjustments are just the next in a life where he's overcome so many roadblocks toward success. Kudos to Isaiah, and continued triumphs to come!
"Anyone with the right coaching and guidance will find themselves with an endless amount of opportunities. I believe that Rutgers can help other youth with the same or similar experiences as mine."
When Leora first came to the Rutgers Youth Success Center, she was under a lot of pressure from the court system; she had been on Juvenile Probation for a while and now had a looming adult charge hanging over her head. Her probation officer and systems advocate would not visit her at her home due to safety concerns. She had dropped out of college classes due to the constant interruption of court dates. Leora had always been a strong, resilient person, but she was starting to lose hope and was becoming overwhelmed and afraid herself.
Then she met Naombi, Case Manager at the Youth Success Center.
"I just want to thank Naombi for everything she's done for me. I don’t think things would have turned out as good without her help."
Naombi acted immediately, writing a letter to the adult court judge on behalf of Leora. She included Leora during the whole process and helped her develop self-advocacy skills and techniques, including how to present herself in court and how best to address the Judge.
"I was really worried about how the Adult Court was going to treat me, and I didn't expect them to give me any support or chances. Naombi encouraged me and helped me see that we could get some things we needed if we approached it right."
Together, Leora and Naombi were able to successfully navigate the court systems. Leora completed over 400 hours of community service and transitioned from juvenile probation. She graduated from all of the court-assigned programs, and overcame some of her own personal challenges.
Naombi then helped Leora enroll in PowerCorps, a job readiness program that helped her to gain career certifications like OSHA and CPR, increasing her chances for future employment.
"I plan to return to college to complete that Business Management degree I started, and I'm gonna get my Realtor License. Maybe I'll sell Ms. Naombi her next house!"
Naombi has also encouraged Leora to get back to the fun things she's always loved, like dancing and music. Her sense of humor, respectful nature, and musical abilities like playing drums, clarinet, and a little piano, will carry her joyfully into the next phase of her life, and Rutgers Youth Success Center (and Naombi, of course) will remain by her side.
Visit The YE2S Center on YouTube to see videos we've captured as we have grown. Highlighted events from our history include the Let's Move! Newark campaign to end childhood obesity, the visit to the Newark YE2S Center from the White House Council for Community Solutions, and Rutgers T.E.E.M. Gateway summer programs.
It is with great pride in our students and alumni that we celebrate the accomplishments of our Project Rise students. On Monday, April 23, 2018, graduating students will be honored for earning their high school diploams at the Rutgers Business School in Newark.
In 2017, the high school equivalency training program in Newark has seen some of our greatest academic success rates to date. Despite increases in the difficulty of the test of high school equivalency in recent years, including the shift to an entirely computer-based exam, Rutgers T.E.E.M. Gateway students are proving their diligence to overcome obstacles and reach their goals. Since the inception of the Project Rise pilot program in Newark, now more than 100 students have earned their high school diploma during their time with us.
Learn more about Project Rise on our Facebook Page!
In the Newark Project Rise classroom, accomplished professionals in the fields from the business and real estate to social services are visiting to share encouragement with students along with the wealth of their knowledge.
Check out our featured speakers each month on the Newark Youth Success Center Facebook Page!
The Youth Success Center hosted our Job Fair for Youth and Young Adults on Friday, October 20th with 20 employers registered for the event and over 75 job seekers in attendance. This was our third successful Job Fair in the past twelve months and spanned two floors of the Isabell Miller Community Center in Camden, NJ. We are thankful for the participating and returning employers who make these events possible, and to our amazing team that planned the event, including Steven Hardwick II, and this year's Social Work interns, Naombi Starling, Liz King and Cionni Jones.
For more photos of the event, visit the Camden Youth Success Center Facebook Page!
The BIG3 Basketball Clinic with NBA stars Kenyon Martin and Andre Ownes was a HUGE hit with over 200 Camden youth who came out to practice their skills and shoot hoops with the best! This was an amazing opportunity to promote the values of education and wellness with guiding princples of passion, focus. and growth. Thank you to all the contributors, volunteers, and supporters who participated and donated, including the Hip Hop Union, the Juvenile Justice Commision, the City of Camden Municipal Drug Alliance, Cure4Camden, Powercorps, the Camden City Metro Police, and Rutgers University.
Check out more photos from the BIG3 Basketball Clinic at the Camden Youth Success Center Facebook Page!
On July 17, Garden Savings Federal Credit Union (GSFCU) in Parsippany raised over $16,000 at its 7th Annual Golf Outing to be donated to the Rutgers T.E.E.M. Gateway YE2S Center of Newark and the Children's Specialized Hospital of New Brunswick.
The outing was a great success with nearly one hundred credit union professionals and industry business partners attending. GSFCU's largest outing to date! Thank you to Garden Savings and to all of those who donated to continue serving the youth of Newark.
Read the article from Parsippany Focus here.