October 31, 2017

YouthCaresOver the summer, NJCDC announced that it was one of ten New Jersey youth-serving organizations awarded a grant from New Jersey Health Initiatives (NJHI), the statewide grantmaking program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). NJHI: Next Generation Community Leaders is a new initiative intended to harness the energy, knowledge and idealism of young people ages 14-21 across the state to prepare them as future leaders while learning to address barriers to health in their own communities.

Thanks to NJHI's generous support, NJCDC is leading the YouthCares program, which is giving fifteen Paterson youth the opportunity to participate in an intensive service learning curriculum that will help them to identify and address critical health issues in their community.

YouthCaresThe YouthCares program got off to a great start with its Fall Retreat, held at YMCA Camp Ockanickon in Medford, NJ. The team arrived on September 23rd and participated in exciting team building activities, including canoeing, campfires, and swamp courses. The youth also learned how to interact with the local government through the Citizens Campaign, which aims to provide US citizens with tools and training for effecting political change in their communities.

Since this was the first time YouthCares participants were working with each other, it was essential that they spend time forming strong bonds. Youth leader Danny Gonzalez, Jr. said, "It was fantastic! Canoeing was a great team building exercise and singing songs around the camp fire was also fun."

YouthCaresNext, the youth leaders participated in their first team meeting on October 14th. The team completed self-assessments including the Leadership Compass Self-Assessment and the True Colors personality test. T'ziah Weaver said, "Because this was our first meeting, we got to know each other better and learn about the activities we will be working on."

Over the next few months, participants will complete a Photo Voice assignment by taking pictures of how they perceive the state of health in Paterson. They will also spend time identifying health issues to address in their action plan.

NJCDC's CEO Bob Guarasci said, "By participating in our YouthCares program, Paterson youth are building a healthier Paterson for all, at the same time they build leadership and advocacy skills. We are very pleased to sponsor this exciting program."

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