The Education Department of the Union County Juvenile Detention Center, under the leadership of Supervisor Barbara Farley, hosted a Career Day Fair for its students on April 2, 2014. Its purpose was to motivate the students to stay on track, finish high school, and to introduce them to various careers and secondary schools after they graduate.
The event was organized by the JDC Education Department’s Administrative Assistant, Susan O’Leary and was attended by Alan Kotzen, Ph. D., Detention Center Manager and Beth Annable, Educational Program Specialist, both of the Juvenile Justice Commission. Ms. O’Leary, with the help of other JDC staff and volunteers, contacted colleges, trade schools, individual business owners, and social service groups to participate in the event. This was the second Career Day held at the Detention Center, and it was a huge success. All of the students were extremely responsive to the possibility of furthering their education and establishing careers after high school.
Throughout Career Day, the JDC teachers were on hand to help the students navigate through the different tables and facilitate a more meaningful dialogue between the participants and each student. Among the schools represented that day were Rutgers University, Union County College, Lincoln Technical Institute, Promise Culinary School, NJ Carpenter’s Technical Training School, and Smith & Solomon Driver Training School.
Also present were representatives from Urban League Reconnection Program - a prisoner re-entry initiative designed to help formerly incarcerated individuals develop meaningful, productive skills for a better life; and the NJ Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services Office – an organization which councils those who, as a result of physical, learning, mental or emotional difficulties, need assistance obtaining or keeping employment. Rounding out the group were two local business owners from Lifestyle of Fitness and Upper Cuts Barber Shop, each who shared their expertise regarding what it takes to own, maintain and succeed as a proprietor in their community.
The second half of the day included an afternoon session on resume writing and interviewing skills for select students presented by Jim Brody of the Veteran’s Chamber of Commerce- NJ. Mr. Brody is a personal employment consultant and is currently involved in helping veterans find employment and support upon returning home from active duty.
In addition to the many student benefits, one of the most interesting and rewarding surprises of the day turned out to be the net-working and emotional support found among the participants. The event gave them the opportunity to learn more about the programs already in place and to share their experiences of what worked and what did not within their organization.
The day ended with many of the students and participants expressing their heartfelt thanks and their desire that the JDC offer events like Career Day on an ongoing basis. Dr. Kotzen remarked, “This was an outstanding example of community collaboration with the students and staff of the Union County Juvenile Detention Center and a wonderful opportunity for the students to see the vast variety of opportunities available to them in the future despite their current circumstances.” There is no doubt that Career Day will continue to grow and provide much needed support to the youth at the JDC.
The education program at the Juvenile Detention Center in Linden is under the auspices of Union County Educational Services Commission located in Westfield. For more information about our programs go to www.ucesc.org .