Early this month, I was attending a Women’s History Month event at NJPAC and greeted by a group of high school students who were also there. They, along with their leader Ms. Jones-Brown were distributing flyers for their first Art Bazaar. It is not every day, one sees teens at history talks. I was curious to learn more about them and why they were there. I immediately arranged an interview Ms. Jones-Brown and her students for this blog.
When I arrived at the historic Barringer High School with notable alumni such as Playwright and Activist, Amiri Baraka now houses two academies within the building. I was greeted by Vivian, a senior in the JAG program that prepares students for life after high school, the world of work, and postsecondary success. I learned that she was born and raised in the Dominican Republic and spent four years living in Brooklyn before she moved to Newark. When she first arrived, Vivian did not speak English and was placed in English as A Second Language (ESL) classes. She now ranks 1 in the program.
Ms. Jones-Brown, who is in her first year as a JAG Specialist, explained to me that in order for students to qualify for JAG, they must have one or more barriers that impacts their education. The barriers can range from language, teen parenting, truancy, homelessness to a number of others. According to their website, Newark is one of two cities to have this program available, the other is in Camden.
Twin sisters Seniors Stephany and Tiffany who are affectionately called “The Twins” “Twin 1 and Twin 2” also only spoke Spanish when they first arrived from Puerto Rico a year ago. They respectively rank 2 and 3 in the program.
Half of the students I met were born and/or raised in Newark while other students came from some place else such as Passaic, Guyana, Ghana and Jamaica.
Dock a senior who is in his first year in J.A.G. credits the program for helping him applying to local colleges and universities where he hopes to study music as well as career preparation. Dock says that the instruction he received on resume writing was useful when applying for jobs. He is now working at the Red Bull Arena.
Before entering the program, Ghana-born Princess, said she was, “really shy, I couldn’t do it and now I could do it better. It has helped me a lot in so many ways.”
Other students reported that JAG has them in prepared in ways as they lead up to the bazaar, as it encourages “working together as a team,” “group learning,” “project based learning,” “money and budgeting skills,” “hands on learning,” “preparing and dressing for interviews” and “leadership skills.”
I would encourage you to stop by their bazaar and support these students as they put into practice what they have learned. Proceeds of the items sold by them will generate funds for their upcoming prom.