They played Frisbee and Spikeball, catching some rays during a brief break from a busy summer. They formed circles on the park’s lawn, sharing stories under both shade and sun.
And while the party held in their honor last year was meant to be all play and no work, New City Kids’ teen interns couldn’t help talking about their excitement for the upcoming school year and their plans for the future.
“I got to meet some of the seniors who were starting their journey toward college and hear what their fears and aspirations were,” said Sarah, who attended last year’s party kicking off the school year for New City Kids. “Many of them wanted to hear our college stories and what it’s like in the ‘real world,’ as they called it.”
You can expect plenty more interactions like that at this year’s kick-off party, held Saturday, August 19th, from noon to 3:30 p.m. at Liberty State Park’s Flag Plaza. You can also expect corn hole, Spikeball, Ladder Golf, Kan Jam, bocce ball and football. Lunch will be provided, but feel free to bring a snack to share.
Saturday’s party is an opportunity to support the staff and teen interns at New City Kids, one of Hoboken Grace’s partners, while those who lead, love and serve 24/7 during the school year get to take a break and have some fun together.
“Because they are usually hard at work, they do not always get to take it easy and just enjoy being together,” said Sarah, Hoboken Grace’s Director of Growth and Assimilation.
After spending the past few months hosting a summer camp and sailing lessons, New City Kids’ staff is already busy preparing for a new school year. Music Boot Camp and orientations are in full swing as the program’s older students step into new leadership roles. Once school begins, they’ll be teaching music lessons, tutoring and mentoring their younger counterparts as part of the organization’s after-school program. And then there’s their own homework, college visits and college applications.
“We want to communicate how much they are loved and how much they matter by celebrating them and encouraging them as they take new steps of leadership as a group,” said Sarah.
New City Kids serves more than 450 students in three cities across the U.S.: Jersey City, Paterson and Grand Rapids, Michigan. The program works with students starting from first grade, offering after-school activities, tutoring and music lessons. Once students reach high school, the organization employs them as teachers. And at the same time, they receive their own mentoring and college prep.
The model has been a huge success. One hundred percent of the seniors at New City Kids graduate and move on to college — a huge feat in Jersey City, where the graduation rate is the lowest in Hudson County, at 75 percent. 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.
The program is also active during the summer months. More than 100 kids recently finished a summer camp program that included music, games and field trips. And more than 30 teens spent the summer learning how to sail through City Sail. The organization’s free program, out of Liberty Harbor in Liberty State Park, allowed the youths to learn team building, swimming and sailing through hands-on experience.
And just last week, the teens who will be teaching music classes this fall kicked off Music Boot Camp. They’re working with professionals in their instrument of study, learning how to develop curriculum and manage their classrooms.
It’s all preparation for September, when three after-school centers will open in Jersey City. More than 220 kids are enrolled, and 105 teens will be on staff to lead, teach and tutor them. The organization is also looking to grow its professional staff and is hiring for several positions in Jersey City and Paterson.
There are so many amazing stories coming out of this program, and you’ll have an opportunity to learn more and hear from the teens themselves this Saturday.
“An afternoon with these kids is something you definitely will not regret,” said Sarah.
Are you available to help serve this Saturday? If you can lend a hand with set-up before or during the party, email email@example.com.