FORMER HARMONY HOUSE RESIDENT GIVING BACK
Timisha Woods remembers all too well te days when she and her family were homeless, living at New Community’s Harmony House transitional living facility in Newark.
“If it were not for Harmony House, we could have been sleeping at Penn Station,” said Woods, now 26 and a senior at Rutgers University in New Brunswick studying biochemistry.
Those days are now behind her, but Woods has never forgotten how New Community was there for her and her family in their time of need.
That’s exactly the reason she is now giving back. Woods recently started tutoring evening students who are preparing for their GED exam, taking classes through New Community’s Adult Learning Center.
“Neither one of my parents graduated high school and I feel like that contributed to me growing up in poverty,” explained Woods. “I feel like education is one of the main solutions to poverty and I want to contribute however I can. It was hard for us growing up, although we had great parents. They were the most intelligent people I ever knew in my life, although they did not graduate high school.”
She came across the volunteer opportunity through an Internet Website. When she saw New Community listed, “I just felt a connection to it because I was once a client ,” she explained.
Her experience with New Community was also a positive one, she recalled. While a teenager and living at Harmony House, Woods was among several youth from the facility who participated in a road trip across the country sponsored by an outside organization.
“We went to South Dakota and visited a Native American tribe. We helped them prepare for their annual Sundance Festival. It was a Sioux tribe and a lot of them were extras in the movie, ‘Dancing with Wolves,’” she said. “We also visited Old Faithful (Geyser) in (Yellowstone National Park) in Nebraska,” she added.
According to Woods, Harmony House supplied the teen residents with supplies like clothing and sleeping bags for the adventure, which lasted several weeks.
“They didn’t have to do that, but they did,” she said.
Today while she is finishing up her college degree, Woods substitute teaches during the day. She would also like to one day use her biochemistry degree to start a product line for natural hair.
Volunteers like Woods are an essential part of NCC’s Adult Learning Center, according to Cristhian Barcelos, center director.
“They assist us in developing the connection between our students and what they can become through some effort and dedication,” he said. “It is always great to observe the interaction between our students and the volunteers, to see how they help each other, and to experience how encouraged the volunteers are… they come back to our program semester after semester.”
He said things really come full circle when a student graduates from the GED program and then decides to give back and to share what they have learned with others by becoming a volunteer.
“At this point it becomes very clear for our students that they are not as far away from their dream as they might have imagined,” he said.