The story of New City Kids is one about transformation, and it starts with one couple’s dream to break cycles of poverty by empowering local youth. Seeing a need in Jersey City, Revs. Trevor and Linda Rubingh launched an after-school program that keeps teens off the streets and focuses on their potential.
Twelve years later, the organization serves more than 450 students in three cities and has an extensive network of alumni across the country. With three sites in Jersey City and others in Paterson, New Jersey, and Grand Rapids, Michigan, New City Kids employs 150 local high schoolers as tutors and music class teachers to more than 300 students in 1st-8th grade.
It’s a model with wide-reaching results: 100 percent of the seniors at New City Kids graduate and move on to college. And while only 9 percent of low-income students nationwide will graduate college by age 24, 90 percent of New City Kids alumni receive degrees by that age.
“It’s changing their life, it’s going to change the life of their siblings, their family, and ultimately the rest of their community,” said Laura, the development director for New City Kids in Jersey City.
Then there are the success stories you can’t put a number on: the students who see themselves differently after joining the program, saying they’ve found confidence, acceptance and a sense of purpose.
“We had a retreat a couple weeks ago,” said Laura. “Fifty of our teens attended and just had a really beautiful time learning about what God wants for them and who they can be in Christ.”
The program begins working with kids as early as first grade, offering homework help and tutoring at local after-school center sites. Students also follow a curriculum that complements their classes at school, emphasizing additional skills in math, reading and geography. And then there’s arts education: each center offers classes in drums, keyboard, bass guitar, vocal performance, visual arts and dance. Leading the classes are high school students who receive yearlong paid, part-time internships as teachers and tutors for the 1st-8th graders. These high school students also receive mentoring, job training, leadership training and intensive support throughout the transition to college. There’s even a summer camp and a free sailing program when school is out.
Along the way, students of all ages are challenged to become leaders and changemakers in their community, and to see themselves differently than they once thought possible. They’re encouraged, inspired and celebrated. They find purpose and start to see their potential.
That sense of transformation is one of the undercurrents of not just the organization, but also New City Kids’ upcoming Spring Benefit Concert. Melding song, dance, music, spoken word and video, “Out of Darkness” is the culmination of their experiences at the after-school program and in their individual lives. The production, based on 1 Peter 2:1-10, is all about restoration, said Laura. It’s about bringing people out of darkness and into His light.
“We’re really looking for a way to tell our youths’ stories through parallels in scripture along with what they experience in their own life and at New City Kids — and trying to break the way that they see themselves, the way the world sees them, and showing them that there’s something more,” said Laura.
Out of Darkness is written and performed by the youth at New City Kids, and there’s something for the whole family during the 90-minute show. With four performances in the area between March 26th and April 1st, there are plenty of opportunities to watch this story of transformation unfold.
To buy tickets or to learn more about Hoboken Grace’s partner New City Kids, click here.