Newark, NJ—On Tuesday, students from five Newark Public Schools presented their community service projects at the Prudential Financial building on Broad Street.

The students, who have participated in the Spirit Afterschool Club since December, were awarded certificates for participating in community service projects in their own neighborhoods.

Ruth Hernandez, a coordinator of the program, told TAPInto Newark the student response is promising and that the program will likely continue in the future.

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“This is a pilot for us,” said Hernandez. “The kids have been very receptive. They’re excited.”

The teams of 10 students from each school were given $500 for a community service project of their choosing. Generation On facilitated the curriculum and learning, Schools That Can handled logistics including busing and permission slips, and Prudential hosted, sponsored and provided volunteers for the program.

The participating students were brought to Prudential once a month and taught how to carry out their projects, to organize, to give presentations and public relations training, including how to speak with media.   

Erin Sweeney, executive director of the Schools That Can Newark, said care was taken to make sure a school from each ward was selected for the program. Sweeney said although Newark Public Schools were the focus this time around, that does not mean the program may not include charter or independent schools in the future.

“I look at these young students and I feel like I’m instilling in them things that I’ve known,” said Daniel Williams, a compliance officer with Prudential who volunteered to work students. “This program is supposed to teach volunteerism. It’s a chance to showcase what I’ve learned to these students.”

Hannah Velez, 14, an eighth grader at Ridge Street Elementary School, said her group decided to clean up the garden at the school, paint numbers in the playground so students know where to line up, make a bulletin board and put recycling bins in the hallways.

“I thought that having a clean school would help students want to be there,” she told TAPInto Newark. “I thought it was very helpful. It made me aware of how much work needed to be done. It made me want to be more involved in beautification projects at the school.”

Doris Swaray, 12, a student at Camden Street Elementary School, said her team held a fitness and health day at their school. It included, Zumba, yoga, basketball, smoothie and fruit stations to encourage healthy eating and movies to encourage students to confront and deal with their emotions rather than bullying people.

“I felt good,” she said. “I asked people if they had fun and they all did.”

The purpose of the community service project was “to help influence people to eat healthy, work hard, exercise, so they could have a long healthy life,” she said. “I wanted to change people’s opinions of eating junk food.”

Students from Oliver Street School created an association to help students with their problems. They hung posters and handed out business cards so that students who need to talk to someone and may not feel able to go to adults feel that they have a support system. The idea was to improve communication among students.

Students from Speedway Academies School held an environmental cleanse complete with a cleanup and an assembly discussing littering and environmental concerns.

Students from Hawthorne School decided to address bullying. The students wore black T-shirts with gold glittered letters that read “Choose Love” and “Choose Peace.” One student read an anti-bullying poem that was also written in a pamphlet to be distributed to students in their school. There is a call to action where the students will ask their classmates to sign an anti-violence, anti-bullying pledge and will distribute lollipops to those who participate. These students will have a table set up in their school on June 6 to spread this message.