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NJ4S Passaic County Holds Community Events to Raise Awareness of Services

NJ4S Passaic County Holds Community Events to Raise Awareness of Services

October 9, 2023

The NJ4S (New Jersey Statewide Student Support Services) Passaic County Hub recently held three public events within a week's span to increase awareness of their services and directly interact with county residents. The program addresses the mental health challenges impacting schools and communities throughout Passaic County by connecting K-12 students and their caregivers with a wide spectrum of specialized, no-cost support services.

On September 20th, the first of two Hub Kickoff events was held for parents to learn more about the mental health resources that the NJ4S program provides to Passaic County students. Hub Director Kathy Barreto detailed the services the organization has already been providing to schools and families, and how these efforts will evolve over time to best meet the needs of Passaic County's school system. Kathy explained the process in detail, in both English and Spanish, and provided guidance to parents on how to request these services at their children's schools. Meanwhile, the NJ4S staff had planned a fun arts and crafts activity for the children in attendance!

The following day, the NJ4S Passaic County Hub Advisory Board held its first in-person meeting at NJCDC's Great Falls Youth Center after several virtual meetings this summer. The NJ4S Passaic County Hub Advisory Board is composed of students, parents, caregivers, school personnel, social service agencies, businesses, faith-based organizations, and other community and civic leaders local to Passaic County. During the meeting, NJCDC Founder & CEO Bob Guarasci expressed his gratitude to all attendees and urged the community to provide their valuable input on how NJ4S Passaic County can increase awareness about their mental health services on a county-wide level. Afterwards, an open dialogue was held between board members and parents, identifying the unique challenges faced by today's youth and how NJ4S services might best tailor future efforts to target educators, caregivers, and students most effectively.

Passaic County residents have the opportunity to attend bi-monthly meetings with the NJ4S Passaic County Hub Advisory Board to discuss any questions or concerns regarding the contents of NJ4S services and programming. In addition to the NJ4S Passaic County Hub Advisory Board members, all meetings will be open to anyone interested in providing input.

Striking while the iron was still hot, the NJ4S Passaic County team held its second Hub Kickoff event on September 27th, this time gathering representatives from Passaic County schools and youth groups to take a deep dive into the specific topic of workshops planned for the new school year. Kathy highlighted some of the key challenges faced by the NJ4S Passaic County program, particularly around raising awareness of its services and establishing contacts with targeted schools. She also emphasized the importance of maintaining open and frequent communication with representatives from Passaic County schools and youth programs and identifying gaps in existing mental health programs for students. By doing so, NJ4S services will serve not only as a preventative utility, but also as a "follow-up" for existing school-run counseling services that students often utilize.

Although at NJCDC, our home is in Paterson — and proudly so — we are able through NJ4S to expand our services throughout Passaic County," remarked Kathy, who went on to emphasize the importance of raising visibility in the upper reaches of Passaic County. Further illustrating the point, she recounted a story where school representatives from one town in that area expressed feeling like the "lost part of the county" from past experiences with county-wide initiatives — and how her team is working hard to avoid that.

Kathy also emphasized the significance of the NJ4S team being primarily composed of Passaic County residents, which allows them to better understand and empathize with the issues students in the area regularly face. She also stressed the significance of the NJ4S team's visibility and the need for schools to trust the program before allowing them into their spaces.

To address this issue, our NJ4S Passaic County team has been continuously present at local events throughout the county. They've also planned a wide range of events targeted at students, teachers, and parents, ensuring a comprehensive approach to their outreach efforts. A list of upcoming NJ4S events may be viewed on the New Jersey Statewide Student Support Services calendar. You can also follow NJ4S Passaic County on Facebook and Instagram!

Bob Guarasci, NJCDC's CEO, stated "We are deeply grateful to the Department of Children and Families for creating such a critical new program, and look forward to innovative and impactful service delivery throughout Passaic County.

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