NEWARK, NJ — Summer has officially arrived, and United Community Corp. is ready to make sure residents in Newark have everything they need to have a safe, resourceful and fun summer.
From youth summer camps to programs dedicated to teens and young adults to food distributions to energy and housing assistance, United Community Corp. serves Newark and Essex County.
UCC’s YouthBuild job training and preparedness program kicked off June 29 with an ice cream social at The Clubhouse Community Center. Registration is currently open for the following YouthBuild programs: high school equivalency credential, job skills development, life skills training, case management, construction training, Cisco-certified network associate, certified nursing assistant, dental assistant and dental technician. UCC’s YouthBuild program is nearly a year old and has already helped place young adults in the workforce.
“We had to grow this program from scratch during a pandemic,” YouthBuild Director Jacqueline Henry said. “There have been highs and lows, but I can truly say that we are thriving through it all. It has been a year of extreme pride to see the commitment and dedication from some of our youth.”
For younger adults and teens, UCC offers its Summer Enrichment Program from Tuesday, July 6, through Friday, Aug. 6, at the Newark Waterfront Center, 2 Grafton Ave.; Training Recreation Education Center, 55 Ludlow St.; and West Side Park Community Center, 600 S. 17th St., all in Newark. All three programs will operate simultaneously, cater to children ages 5 to 13 and offer a variety of activities, including academics, fitness, writing, mentorship, sports, STEAM and field trips. The four-week program will feature trips to the Camden Aquarium, Medieval Times, Branch Brook Park Roller Skating Center and the Turtle Back Zoo.
“Field trips are so important because, sometimes, parents can’t afford to take their children to these places or don’t have the means of transportation — especially if they have multiple children,” Youth, Family and Senior Services Director Yucleidis Melendez said. “We want to be able to provide that for the family and children, to make sure that they have a fun summer.”
Thirty students will also be provided with a free trip to Hands In 4 Youth sleepaway camp in West Milford, during three sessions throughout the summer. Twenty other students will participate in a week-long STEAM session, sponsored by the Arman Roy Foundation.
UCC will also be running two programs for teens ages 14 to 18. The first will be a basketball clinic out of the West Side Park Community Center and the second will be a mentorship program in partnership with the K.I.N.G. Movement’s North Jersey chapter. Students will meet with mentors from the K.I.N.G. Movement every Tuesday and will also be tasked with mentoring younger students within UCC’s Summer Enrichment program.
“The students love working with the men from the K.I.N.G. Movement,” Melendez said. “Our numbers have gone up since we started working with them. Now those same teens want to do mentoring with the younger kids.”
Melendez and her department also plan on working with UCC’s food and clothing pantry to have at least one distribution at West Side Park each month of summer. On Saturday, July 24, UCC is planning to have a music festival with local DJs, in addition to giving out food, services and clothing. On Saturday, Aug. 14, UCC is planning a community barbecue with free hot dogs and hamburgers, as well as a backpack distribution for the upcoming school year.
West Side Park is also the hub for UCC’s Community and Family Empowerment Program, which aims to engage and aid families in effectively maneuvering the Juvenile Justice System’s reform efforts. The program holds meet-and-greet support events and mentorship programs, and connects services that support and empower families and parents in advocating for their children.
“We’ve really been able to engage with the community,” Program Director Craig Lee said. “Our meet-and-greets have been really good. We’ve had giveaways, raffles and played games. The families and peers have really gotten to know each other and me well.”
Lee’s program is very active at UCC and community events, as is UCC’s LIHEAP/Energy Assistance Department. Knowing the importance of air conditioning during the summer, UCC’s energy assistance department encourages anyone worried about paying their electric bill to reach out by calling 973-642-0181, ext. 3173 or 5711, to find out how they can receive energy assistance.
UCC’s food and clothing pantries currently operate in the East Ward, 106 Ann St., and the South Ward, 933 18th St., in Newark. The East Ward pantry distributes food and has a free clothing boutique. It operates Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., as well as by appointment. The Champion House food pantry in the South Ward is open Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
In addition to its summer-specific programming, UCC also offers virtual senior services, housing assistance, aid to victims of crime, lead-safe remediation and abatement year-round, as well as shelter at both the Newark Hope Village shipping container shelter and Fulton Street Emergency Shelter.
Photos Courtesy of Richard Greco