Locally, Rutgers T.E.E.M. Gateway AmeriCorps members are helping at-risk and disconnected youth engage in meaningful employment, education and service opportunities to encourage positive life choices. This is accomplished through mentoring programs, tutoring, school enrichment programs, and by supporting community nonprofit organizations. Pilet serves at one of 12 Family Success Centers operated by the nonprofit Newark Now, helping clients fill out paperwork for government assistance, scheduling appointments for them and following up to make sure they’ve received help. Newark Now was founded by the current mayor of Newark, Cory A. Booker, and serves residents in a variety of other ways, from community events to assistance with tax preparation.
“I feel good about what I’m doing,’’ Pilet said. “I feel more connected to the community because I’m making a difference in people’s lives.’’
When Pilet struggled through troubled years as a teenager in Irvington, Rutgers T.E.E.M. Gateway connected him to a strong support system, guided him through an employment search and interviews and helped him apply to Essex Community College. “They were there to help me out a lot,’’ Pilet said. He has since enrolled at Rutgers Newark and intends to use a $2,363 AmeriCorps education award towards the completion of his degree in management and economics.
Rutgers AmeriCorps members include former T.E.E.M. Gateway clients, college students, recent graduates, retirees and other adults, Naphas said. All serve at-risk communities, from Newark to Camden to Asbury Park. The program partners with youth development and prevention programs, and works closely with the Juvenile Justice Commission in the recruitment and placement of members.
Leniah Johnson of Seaside Heights, is also a Rutgers T.E.E.M. Gateway AmeriCorps member. He is using his talent as a poet and spoken word artist in an enrichment program at Asbury Park High School, teaching students new ways to express themselves.
“I’m basically trying to get them to let loose with their hearts and their minds,’’ said Johnson, 35. Asbury Park High is a tough place to grow up, he said. “Knowing they can write how they feel and get their frustrations down on paper gives them an outlet. I tell them, ‘don’t worry about anyone judging it.’’’
Six other AmeriCorps members serve with Rutgers Cooperative Extension’s county offices. They coordinate, enhance and teach after-school workshops about health, nutrition, science, engineering and technology. They also identify new schools with which the Cooperative Extension office can partner to offer workshops.
Elsewhere, Rutgers AmeriCorps members:
T.E.E.M. Gateway AmeriCorps’ goals are to improve the lives of children, engage the community and, most importantly, help members gain skills to prepare them for life after their year of service, Naphas said. With that in mind, members receive training in time and money management, professional etiquette, and career preparation. The benefits to both the individual and society are even greater; a recent 8 year study showed that compared to others, AmeriCorps alumni are more empowered to work for the betterment of their communities and more likely to go into public service careers even years after their service.
“Our best successes come when we enable our members to serve their community with the talents and energy they already have,’’ Naphas said. Through AmeriCorps, members expand not only their knowledge but their possibilities in life, and they become examples of success. “By virtue of their service, they are empowering those they help to grow and then give back to their community.’’
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