NEWARK, NJ -- Link Community Charter School rang in the new school year with a celebratory block party on Saturday, bringing together students, staff and members of greater Newark in recognition of the school’s 50th anniversary. 

Organized with support from the City of Newark, Newark School of the Arts and the Department of Public Safety, nearly 1,000 attendees came out to enjoy a day of carnival games, crafts, live entertainment and quality time with their fellow Newarkers.

Maria Paradiso, head of school at Link, said the event was not only in celebration of the 50-year milestone but a way to thank the families and partners who make Link’s mission possible. 

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“A school is most successful when it's embedded in the community. Link can’t do its job on its own,” she said. “The existence of Link in the community is an accomplishment we’re proud to share.” 

Born from the civil unrest that rocked Newark in the late 1960s, the Sisters of Saint Dominic opened Links’ doors in 1969 as a way to provide sanctuary to the city’s youth through mission-driven education. The school has served as a mainstay since its foundation, expanding over the decades and converting to a public charter school in 2014 to serve more students. 

Now with more than 300 current students, thousands of alumni and $6.5 million in scholarship funding awarded to its graduates in 2019 alone, Link hopes to continue growing its programming along with its partnerships. 

“We try very hard to provide opportunities to our kids that they don’t get at a lot of schools. We have a very heavy immersion in the arts and many exposures outside the classroom through our relationships in the community,” said Sharon Machrone, Link’s director of communications.  “The goal is to educate and nurture our students’ bodies, minds and spirits.” 

Assemblyman Thomas Giblin (D-Essex), who delivered New Jersey’s legislative proclamation at Link’s 50th-anniversary assembly in September, echoed the importance of instilling values of service and community in Newark’s youth by integrating schools with the community at large. Public events like block parties provide both positive engagement and fortified resources for students and the city’s institutions alike, he said. 

“Link taught me to be a better person, to put my pride aside and be part of something bigger than myself,” said Link alumna Athena Collymore. “It brings people together.”