ELIZABETH, NJ - A non-profit organization that supports healthy and environmentally-friendly projects in the city was one of 10 groups in the state to receive a $200,000 grant.

Groundwork Elizabeth plans to use the grant to select 20 city residents from the ages of 14 to 21 over a period of about 3 years to brainstorm, train and develop a community event addressing a health challenge in the city. The Groundwork Elizabeth project will be called “Preparing Elizabeth’s Next Generation of Community Leaders.”

“What we want to do is inject a youth view point in creating a culture of health,” said Groundwork Elizabeth Executive Director Jonathan Phillips.

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Groundwork Elizabeth received the grant July 1 from New Jersey Health Initiatives (NJHI), a statewide grant-making program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The overarching foundation aims to build a national culture of health and has invested more than $1.2 billion in the state since 1972.  

“[Children] are going to be the next coaches, school board presidents and council members,” said NJHI Director Bob Atkins. “They should understand that doesn’t happen just by osmosis. They need to learn how to work in teams and communicate with people.”

The foundation wants each grantee to engage youth in leadership roles by possibly creating youth advisory boards or having the youth teams report on their work at city council meetings.

Groundwork Elizabeth will select two community coaches to get training from NJHI. Those two community coaches will select the first round of 10 youth by September. Groundwork Elizabeth will listen to the youth and train them to address a health issue they identify.

“We want to make this open to everybody,” said Phillips later adding that, “We want to pull people up.”

By next summer, the 10 trainees will use what they learn to create an event for the city. Each selected youth will receive a stipend of $40 a month for their 10-month training, Phillips said. They will be paid $10 an hour for 120 hours of work for the month they implement their summer event next year.

There are also additional funds for youth who will stay on as alumni to help mentor new groups, too. Another 10 youth will be selected to develop a new plan for the following summer, too.

Nine other groups received this grant from NJHI, including the Abbott Leadership Institute in Newark and The New Jersey Community Development Corporation in Paterson.

Since 2012, Groundwork Elizabeth has been working with a coalition of local groups called Shaping Elizabeth, which includes The Gateway Family YMCA, the Elizabeth Housing Authority, the city, Trinitas Regional Medical Center, Elizabeth Public Schools, the Boys and Girls Club of Union County, United Way and more.

To see periodic updates about the local project, visit the NJHI website or visit Groundwork Elizabeth's website.

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