NEWARK, NJ — Leaders of the BRICK Education Network convened with community partners on Thursday morning to assess their immediate response to COVID-19, the transition to the recovery phase and plans for the first Federally Qualified Health Care Center to Clinton Hill in the South Ward, signaling steps forward in the virus’ aftermath.

Through the partnership of the Greater Newark Healthcare Coalition, a collaborative aimed at reducing health care disparities, and the South Ward Children’s Alliance, the Clinton Hill Health Center will focus on early childhood interventions and patient empowerment. 

“People wanted a clean, vibrant place where they could walk in and feel as whole. Not just cement blocks everywhere,” said Dominique Lee, founder and CEO of BRICK. “On top of that, they wanted to be able to see the same doctor.” 

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By focusing on health and early childhood education, Lee and GNHCC Executive Director Keri Logosso said the clinic will give patients the resources to have better outcomes and reduce long term health consequences.

“The center is looking at using two programs as models: Healthy Steps, an early childhood intervention program to promote health in children ages one to three and The Centering Healthcare Institute, which focuses on health assessments, interactive learning and community building. 

BRICK is also leading a campaign called Wear with Flair, an initiative to collect and distribute 30,000 masks to the South Ward community. The South Ward has been particularly affected by COVID-19, as well as its economic consequences. 

“Food insecurity, heightened levels of anxiety and depression, fear, grieving over lost family members or friends. The majority of our employees are hourly employees, so they weren’t furloughed, they were let go,” said Nichelle Holder, chief program officer for BRICK. 

Wear with Flair has collected 10,000 masks so far, 1,000 of which were made by local residents for stipends provided by the Network. The Maroon Project provided 4,000 masks. 

BRICK’s Chief Academic Officer Chris Perpich, said as children across Newark contend with learning losses due to the pandemic, the Network will be recruiting 640 students K-7 for its virtual summer school. Those students will experience classes, small group tutoring and breakout activities to stay stimulated throughout the summer and build up skills for literature and math. 

“We applaud the BRICK network for raising the bar on what it means to build true community schools that can transform communities,” said Kyle Rosenkrans, Executive Director of the New Jersey Children’s Foundation which supports the BRICK Education Network. 

Students going into ninth grade will be given instruction specifically in algebra in preparation for high school, and grades 9-11 will focus on credit recovery to ensure their graduation is on track. During the pandemic, BRICK distributed more than 1,000 Chromebooks to students for remote instruction. 

“We had a lot of challenging issues in the South Ward even before COVID-19, but I’d like to say that our relationship has just grown so much,” said South Ward Councilman John Sharpe James Jr., who made a brief appearance at the meeting to recognize the progress made through partnership.