NEWARK, NJ — An employment program for youth and young teens in Newark is on its way to becoming a model for the country. 

The Newark Youth One Stop Career Center's Summer Youth Employment Program was recognized on the national stage last week when program director Marsha Armstrong served as a guest speaker during Aspen’s peer-learning session, “Expanding the Summer 2021 Youth Jobs Toolkit." The program focuses on setting up the city’s youth for career pathways by honing in on their skills through various facets of mentorship, banking and financial literacy, and job training. 

During last week’s event, Armstrong discussed the successes and challenges of creating the program and what practices others can apply to their communities.

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“When I came in, there was so much to do and no blueprint on how to do it,” Armstrong said. “I’m honored to say we created something out of nothing. It feels great to know that people are noticing what we’re doing in Newark.

“Summer youth employment programs are used to build capacity in young people, and having a collaboration of people at the table saying, ‘We believe in you’, really creates a space where young people have their foot in the door to be anchored in success. It’s amazing to watch, so I’m excited about it,” Armstrong said. 

In 2019, Newark was named to the Aspen Institute Opportunity Youth Forum’s communities through the recognition of Newark Opportunity Youth Network (NOYN)’s services in the community. The forum includes more than two dozen communities across the country, all seeking education and employment pathways for opportunity youth.

In December 2020, the Aspen Institute’s Forum for Community Solutions released its updated Digital Summer Youth Employment Toolkit, a resource guide of best practices from successful summer youth employment programs designed to strengthen them in communities across the nation that the Newark program can access.

As a member, NOYN is provided various resources such as professional development, technical training, and funding opportunities aimed to strengthen the workforce infrastructure in Newark, primarily through Newark Youth One Stop's partnership with the Newark Youth Workforce Collaborative

The workforce program, which launched in January, partnered with Schools That Can and Newark Alliance to connect leaders in education and workforce development, as well as local employment partners, to help young people in the city breaking into the job market as the city’s first collective approach to creating a school-to-workforce pipeline.

The program coordinators said that upon taking office in 2014, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka sought to revamp and expand the city’s employment program as a personal endeavor of his due to the impact the program had on his life as a youth.

Together with local philanthropic organizations, the Victoria Foundation, Prudential Foundation and the Foundation for Newark’s Future, the city redesigned the program to meet the demand for soft skills development alongside credentials needed for high-growth industries.

“Mayor Baraka, Marsha, and the entire team at Newark Youth One Stop have done a tremendous job growing this program the last few years,” NOYN CEO Robert Clark, said. “Even in the middle of a pandemic, [the Summer Youth Employment Program] continued to move forward and achieve positive outcomes for young people. We thank the Aspen Institute for elevating this work on a national level and for sharing out these best practices.”

Since the program was founded nearly 65 years ago, it has grown to encompass more than 3,000 members.  Although many summer youth employment programs shut down due to COVID-19, the Newark program has continued to sustain its efforts both virtually and remotely. 

Learn more about Newark’s summer youth employment program in Aspen’s Digital Summer Youth Employment Toolkit 2.0 here.