SHU Center for Community Research and Engagement launches Change for Good

Photo Courtesy of Seton Hall University
Above is Jamila T. Davis, the community practitioner in residence at Seton Hall University’s Center for Community Research and Engagement.

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — As community practitioner in residence at the Center for Community Research and Engagement at Seton Hall University, Jamila T. Davis has launched the Change for Good program, according to an Oct. 10 press release.

The program, initiated with the Newark Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery, is designed to give high-risk adults a second chance and area youth what may be their first.

Participants in the program are given the opportunity to heal, transform their thinking and engage in a curriculum designed to foster a variety of career paths and enable these young people to become more productive members of society.

“The Center for Community Research and Engagement has been marshaling the university’s resources to develop creative solutions to community problems for nearly 25 years,” said professor Roseanne Mirabella, executive director of the center and chairperson of the MPA program at Seton Hall. “These latest programs go to the core of our mission: bringing the power of opportunity and the opportunity for power to the people — especially young black and brown people who have been systematically deprived of both.”

The program is in many ways a continuation and expansion of the Summer Work Experience Program, also spearheaded by Davis, that brought Seton Hall together with the city of East Orange to bring educational, work-based training, entrepreneurial skills and mental health counseling programs to high school students in the East Orange School District over the course of last three summers.

Change for Good also incorporates some of the active civic training from the Social Justice Certificate program, which Davis also spearheaded at Seton Hall along with professor Juan Rios, director of the university’s Master of Social Work program.

The Social Justice Certificate program was a collaboration between the Center for Community Research and Engagement, the South Orange Community Care & Justice program, and Newark’s Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery. The certificate program brought community members from Newark, South Orange, East Orange, Irvington and Brooklyn together at Seton Hall to learn from experts, each other and a curriculum that historicizes the context of the black and urban experience in America.

“These programs at Seton Hall have been good for our residents; good for our young people who might need a little help to tap into their gifts and talents and discover their purpose; (and) good for the community as we introduce young people branded as ‘high risk’ to high reward as productive members of society,” said Lakeesha Eure, director of the Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery.

Like the Summer Work Experience Program in East Orange and the Social Justice Certificate program, Change for Good emphasizes “actionable knowledge” and seeks to empower its participants as changemakers in search of equity as well as personal and community well-being. 

The initial offering of the Change for Good program took place over a span of eight weeks, with approximately 50 residents, ages 17-24, of Newark, East Orange and Irvington coming to campus once each week for community/career forums and classes in entrepreneurship, financial literacy, film and video production, and social justice.

Classes were led by Yale School of Public Health activist in residence Angelo Pinto, a founding member of Until Freedom; award-winning BET journalist and film producer Samson Styles; Girls with Knowledge CEO Marcelle Lashley-Kabore, a two-time Emmy Award winner with extensive expertise creating social impact platforms and producing experiential marketing campaigns and multimedia programming for diverse audiences; and Tiffany Williams, owner of Bellargo Piarge, a streetwear company with multimillion-dollar sales, and Bellargo Consulting, a team of fashion design, production management and branding consultants that focus on shepherding new entrepreneurs. The mental health care component of the program was led by Rios and Davis.

“Sometimes all people need is an opportunity to see something different and someone to believe in them,” Davis said. “Many of these kids have felt more or less invisible their whole lives. But not here at Seton Hall, not now.

“For the program finale we brought the students together for a screening of ‘Killing Beef: Gun Violence in the Black Community,’ the award-winning documentary from Samson Styles,” she continued. “Afterwards, we had an intense discussion about social change — and I assure you it was different than the ones we had at the beginning of these eight weeks.”

The next cohort of Change for Good at Seton Hall commenced in the fall semester and is currently underway; another cohort is scheduled for the spring semester.