In July of 2021, JEVS Human Services partnered with the New Jersey Youth Corps (NJYC), coupling community service with academics in order to give youth 16-25 without a high school diploma a chance to build a future. One of 13 Youth Corps sites in New Jersey, this was the first to be located on Absecon Island thereby making it possible to truly serve Atlantic City. As the program finishes its initial open, it celebrates success and looks to help even more in the community.
NJYC of Atlantic County operates out of the Police Athletic League (PAL) in Atlantic City, allowing greater reach to a community of young adults who may be without their high school diploma.
“We operate right in the backyard of those we serve and our potential members don’t even need to ride the bus to reach us,” said program director, Erica Hoskins. “Our goal is to make sure our services are as accessible as possible to those who need them.”
Much of the program’s time is dedicated to developing and improving the academic skills of Corps members, with instructors taking the time to design specially tailored plans that are particular to the needs of each individual. NJYC incorporates both small group activities and individual assistance within its classes for a well-rounded outcome. A major goal of the program is to help young adults obtain an HSE (High School Equivalency), but it goes beyond just education.
“We can refer youth on other social issues, too. Whatever they come in with, if they show up, we will show up for them,” continued Erica. “More than just education, from personal counseling to career counseling, we are here to help remove the barriers between the individual and future success.”
Corps members participate in Employability & Life Skills instruction, as well as individual and group counseling to build self-esteem, clarify values and hone their skills. Members who successfully complete the program will receive support in various areas, including assistance with higher education, job placement assistance, personal portfolio development, assistance in transitioning to further training or service programs, and general wellness follow-up services.
A major part of the experience are service projects which provide controlled, supervised work situations that are led by experienced Crew Supervisors. The combination of meaningful work experience paired with educated instructors gives Corps members the ability to develop the skills that are essential to achieve success beyond the program.
Giving Back and Learning with Community Partners
Corps members works on projects that benefit the community, and this year the program partnered with MudGirls Studio and the Noyes Arts Garage of Stockton University.
MudGirls Studios helps to provide opportunities in art and entrepreneurship to economically disadvantaged and at-risk women, and Corps members got to work alongside the women of MudGirls Studios. The organization recently received an order for 500 “Peace Dove” ornaments, so the members learned to wedge, stamp, cut, roll out, and glaze clay pieces, as well as help to put orders together and package their art. They also assisted in the black underglaze process for square outdoor tiles that will be installed in the upcoming community garden in the Chelsea Heights neighborhood of Atlantic City.
The program also partnered with Noyes Arts Garage of Stockton University which strives to promote education and provide resources for emerging artists, all while enriching the community. Their Poetry Trail, a moving outdoor feature that displays poems addressing social justice issues related to the community, blew away during a coastal storm, so members helped nail down poems. In one example, Executive Director of Noyes, Michael Cagno, worked hand in hand with a Corps member, teaching her how to measure angles and mark coordinates.
JEVS New Jersey Youth Corps of Atlantic County is open to anyone 16-25 who resides in Atlantic County and doesn’t have a high school diploma or equivalent. There is no cost to participate, and members receive stipends for their overall participation in the program, up to a total of $1,750. The next group is enrolling now and starts July 11, 2022.