NEWARK, NJ — United Community Corporation and the Arman Roy Foundation teamed up to host two career panels at Newark public high schools this past April. The panels focused on careers in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, and the impact of technology in careers beyond just the traditional tech jobs.
The panels reached an estimated 200 students between sessions at Payne Tech on April 13 and East Side High School on April 29.
Eight professionals from various organizations participated as panelists: Bre’yanie Pearson and Misba Gani, Per Scholas; Melissa Prashad, JPMorgan Chase; Kendall L. Givens, NPower; Christopher Mainor, Urban Pathways; John Samuel, Technology Engineers and Architects LLC; and Christiane Agkpo, Montclair Learning Center. Essex County Schools of Technology supervisor of student-related services Patricia Shaffer facilitated the panel at Payne Tech and Newark East Side Vice Principal Michael West organized the panel at his school.
“These types of events are so critical because they expose our students to experiences and opportunities that are out there,” West said. “What better opportunity for students to have than seeing and interacting with professionals in the field as they are learning and thinking about what their future might be.”
The experiences of the panelists varied significantly. Some took the college route, some achieved master’s degrees and others pursued associate’s degrees. Some didn’t go to college at all. Others, such as Prashad, who is JPMorgan Chase’s community manager and United Community Corp.’s board secretary, were first-generation college students.
“I thought that I could add inspiration to this panel,” Prashad said. “A lot of my storytelling about my past is to share that anything is possible. In one generation, everything can change. You have to be driven. Whether it is tech, banking or anything in life, you have to work hard and follow your heart.”
Each tech panel lasted 45 minutes in a question-and-answer format, which was moderated by UCC community engagement director Richard Greco and Arman Roy Foundation founder and Chairperson Manisha Roy. Students were able to jump in and ask questions along with moderators and utilized an allotted time at the panel’s conclusion to network with the professionals and ask any additional questions in a one-on-one setting.
“When you are in high school, it’s such an exciting time because there are so many opportunities in front of you, but it could also be very stressful,” Roy said. “We saw through the 200 students that we met over the last few weeks that most of them don’t know what their journey is going to look like. These types of opportunities and panels that bring together professionals from a wide array of industries are so important because each panelist took a different route to get to where they are.”
One of those potential routes for students includes going directly into a training program following graduation. The tech panel featured two organizations that offer free training to low-income young adults. Per Scholas provides skill training and access to employer networks to individuals often excluded from tech careers; it focuses on diversifying the technology workforce by offering no-cost technical training. NPower creates pathways to economic prosperity by launching digital careers for military veterans and young adults in underserved communities with a focus on technology and digital skills. Both organizations have Newark campuses.
“I think that a lot of people in underserved communities feel that their only way out of poverty is through scholarships and sports, or going into massive debt,” said Givens, NPower’s professional development manager. “There are other ways to successfully enter different careers. Panels like this are extremely important because students don’t always know about programs that are available to help them.”
While the panel focused on the impact of technology in the workforce. It also allowed Greco and Roy to share information about their nonprofit agencies and how students and their families can benefit from them. United Community Corporation offers a wide array of services ranging from food assistance to shelter to COVID-19 vaccination outreach to youth, family and senior services. The Arman Roy Foundation’s mission is to change the lives of vulnerable youth by opening a window to wonder, opportunity and hope through technology.
“Having the opportunity to not only educate these young people about their future but also share some services that can benefit them and their families was great,” Greco said. “The fact that we provided this service directly to students in their schools made a huge difference. We can’t thank East Side and Payne Tech enough for allowing us the time to speak with their students.”
Photos Courtesy of United Community Corporation