Donors provide students with laptops, learning kits for East Orange’s Virtual SWEP

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EAST ORANGE, NJ — On the heels of the creation of the city of East Orange’s Virtual Summer Work Experience Program, also known as SWEP, a virtual learning experience held in collaboration with VIP Online Academy and Seton Hall University, the program has seen buy-in from many donors. Most recently, Greg Campbell of Electronic Access Foundation donated 25 computers to program students; the distribution took place at Town Hall on July 24. 

“EAF is the Electronic Access Foundation, which is a 100-percent volunteer-managed, nonprofit 501(c)3 organization established in 2012 for the purpose of collecting donated surplus electronic equipment for other qualified nonprofit organizations working with the low-income, veteran and disabled populations,” Connie Jackson, of the East Orange Office of Public Information, said on July 27. “EAF solicits and accepts donations from local, regional and national businesses, schools and government agencies of their surplus electronic equipment, including laptops, desktops, tablets, services, flat-screen monitors, audio-visual, security, telecommunications equipment, cell phones and more.”

According to a press release, students who are enrolled in the personal care cohort will also be receiving 60 hair and makeup kits, courtesy of Janet Collection and KISS USA.

Thanks to EAF’s donation and Grades4Life, a nonprofit organization that provides incentives for students to achieve in academics and the trades, eligible students will be able to fully participate in the city’s remote-learning experience.

“The Virtual SWEP was created as an alternative to the city’s existing SWEP, which places students in workplace environments throughout the city during a six-week period in the summer,” Jackson said. “The goal was to ensure that students participating in the East Orange Virtual SWEP would be able to fully participate in the remote training program, which relies solely on online learning.”

Jackson expressed the urgency of this program.

“We didn’t want students to miss an opportunity to have a dynamic learning experience due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so we partnered with VIP Online Academy, founded by motivational speaker, author and activist Jamila T. Davis, to provide our students with a virtual opportunity to learn and earn at the same time,” Jackson said.

In addition to Davis, the online program has featured a slew of skilled instructors, industry experts and celebrity influencers, including Yandy Smith from “Love & Hip Hop” and civil rights activist Tamika Mallory.

In collaboration with Virtual SWEP, Davis led with what influenced the creation of VIP Online Academy.

“The VIP Online Academy is a virtual platform that was created to provide enrichment workshops to boost the confidence of students, provide emotional support and to empower them with skills that will help them make money now,” Davis said on July 27. “I created the academy in response to COVID-19. I saw there was a serious need to lift the spirits of students who no longer could engage in school and community programs in person. I wanted to provide an experience that would motivate them to push through adversity and come out of this quarantine on top.”

According to Davis, the joint venture with Smith and Mallory was a great opportunity.

“For the past three years, I’ve been working with my partners Yandy Smith and Tamika Mallory conducting community engagements,” Davis said. “We provide workshops in schools, communities and cities throughout the country that teach students various specialized skills sets to empower them to be successful. I created the VIP Online Academy to continue these services virtually.

“Back in April, I was contacted by Ladonna Johns from the city of East Orange after she heard about the online academy,” she continued. “We worked diligently together to create a program for SWEP. We wanted to provide students with a memorable experience, while teaching them valuable skills and providing them access to industry experts.”

According to Davis, being able to offer such programming is amazing.

“It feels incredibly great to see the program having a positive impact on students. It actually warms my heart,” Davis said. “These students are undoubtedly some of the most gifted, intelligent students that we have ever had the honor to work with. I’m looking forward to our program closeout celebration in August, where students will showcase their businesses they established through the program and display the skills they’ve learned. It’s amazing to see how, when we provide adequate resources, attention and love to our youth, we are able to show them anything is possible through hard work.”

Photos Courtesy of VIP Online Academy