EDISON, NJ - Edison Township’s youth mentorship program that helps at-risk youngster strengthen their academic skills and introduces them to emerging technology careers has received national recognition and praise as an “innovative model” for other communities throughout the country to replicate.

Edison is the only municipality in the United States invited to a Washington D.C. symposium highlighting how public-private partnerships can enhance Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education for K-12 students.

“It was a great privilege to share Edison’s creative model for helping children improve their academic skills and study habits; and focus their attention on careers in technology and the sciences,” said Melissa Perilstein, the Township administrator of policy and strategic initiatives, who represented Edison at a July symposium.

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The symposium was sponsored by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), a multinational IT conglomerate with its North American headquarters in MetroPark, and DC-based STEMconnector, a tech-based think tank. The conference was held at Florida International University’s facilities in Washington DC.

Edison launched its afterschool SWAG Mentorship Program – which stands for: Success. Workforce Options, Accountability and Goals for the future – in 2018 to encourage students, ages 11–14, to make positive life choices, develop healthy relationships, provide tutoring and introduce them to emerging technologies. 

“It is a tremendous honor for our SWAG Mentorship Program to receive this national recognition and attention,” Mayor Thomas Lankey said. “Edison welcomes other New Jersey communities and municipalities throughout the U.S. to emulate and build upon the model that we created.” 

The Township collaborated with Edison Housing Authority to create a 10-week mentorship program for at-risk middle schoolers from the Robert E. Holmes Gardens in North Edison. “Our goal was to help children recognize their potential in the high-tech workforce and expose them to new career possibilities,” said Perilstein.

The program – which Edison plans to host again this fall – offers tutoring; lessons in STEM education and mobile app development; career exploration in a number of different fields, especially emerging technologies.

To create the SWAG mentorship program, the Township partnered with Tata Consultancy and other technology developers who provided volunteer instructors to help Edison students.

The mentorship program is one of several unique public-private initiatives that the Lankey Administration has created since 2014. Among these initiatives are the Township’s annual “Scoop & Score” football camp that teaches youngsters, ages 6–18, gridiron skills and promotes the importance of academics; healthy lifestyle and nutrition choices; and community involvement.

Edison is also in the fifth year of a partnership with N.J. Institute for Disabilities for the “Snack & Shack Café” in Town Hall’s lobby that provides hands-on job training and community inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities.