Sixteen-year-old Robbie Wisowaty could have spent a week on vacation or lounging poolside, but instead he decided to volunteer over the summer at New Community. Sitting with two students learning English at NCC’s Adult Learning Center, Wisowaty offered help but said that inwardly, he found himself empathizing with those in the ESL class.
“It’s kind of like how I feel when I take Spanish class,” he said. The North Arlington teen and nine other students from St. Peter’s Preparatory School rolled up their sleeves and traded life in the suburbs for a week in Newark for a school service project aimed at immersing teens in an urban environment as an eye-opening experience. Led by two adult chaperones, the teens from the all-male school in Jersey City stayed overnight at New Community Associates and spent their days serving at various NCC sites.
Brian Dougherty said he wasn’t quite sure what to expect of his first service project in Newark.
“I know it’s easy to be judgmental coming in,” Dougherty, 16, of Verona, said. But the group wasn’t left on their own—they relied on the guidance of Care Coordinator Jasminee Sawh-Ramroop, who helped the group navigate the NCC network throughout their stay.
Dougherty and classmate Augie Berkhardt spent one afternoon playing with children in a pre-kindergarten class at Community Hills Early Learning Center.
“Yay, I’m finished!” student Zion McClain said excitedly after Berkhardt, 16, of Lyndhurst, helped him solve a puzzle.
“Most of what we do here is based on one-on-one relationships,” CEO Richard Rohrman said while sitting with the students at lunch earlier that day. He also gave an overview of how a large network like New Community functions.
“It’s important today to be a self-sustaining organization,” Rohrman told the students, explaining that NCC receives about 20 percent of funding via grants and the rest through earned income.
The students spent time at sites including NCC’s transitional housing facility called Harmony House, the Family Resource Success Center, Extended Care Facility and the Workforce Development Center.