NEWARK, NJ — A Newark-based community outreach organization is the recent recipient of 25 laptops donated by the Newark Opportunity Youth Network (NOYN).
The organization donated the laptops on Tuesday to United Community Corporation (UCC), a local organization that provides support services to the community. The laptops will be utilized by students within UCC’s YouthBuild program. As a partner of the Newark Youth Workforce Collaborative, UCC partnered with the joint effort aimed to connect leaders in education and workforce development, as well as local employment partners, to help young people in the city breaking into the job market. The program launched earlier this year.
“As the longest standing anti-poverty agency in the city, UCC is a vital piece of Newark’s community service and workforce development landscape,” said Robert Clark, CEO of NOYN. “Whether it’s through their YouthBuild program or through one of the many other services they offer, UCC is there to help meet the need. NOYN is proud to support their work and mission in any way we can.”
In order to address a technology gap exposed by the pandemic, the situation posed a challenge to UCC where organization officials said many of its students don’t have laptops or internet access at home, which made virtual learning an obstacle.
“[The pandemic] really exposed the state of our nation, and the state of Newark, New Jersey,” Craig Mainor, Executive Director of UCC said. “We know that there is an economic barrier, but so many of our young people don’t have the resources. It’s really shed the light that as much work as we’re doing, there’s still more work to be done.”
To bridge this gap, UCC YouthBuild Program Director Jacqueline Henry said the space has remained open five days per week for young people looking for tech support and Wi-Fi access. She said they have also used creative problem-solving to translate YouthBuild’s hand-on construction program to a virtual platform, which allows students applying construction principles to smaller projects.
“We’re going to build,” Henry said. “We’re going to do something so that they’re still getting that experience. It may not be the same experience they would have on-site, but it’s an experience, nonetheless.”
UCC has remained open and active through the pandemic, offering emergency resources through its food pantry and homeless shelter. In addition, the organization continues to provide youth and family services, after-school programs and senior support services.
Last year, UCC created various departments to aid residents with matters such as utility and energy assistance; housing assistance to help families after eviction freezes; and launched a community engagement department.
“So many needs were exposed by this pandemic, especially in the city of Newark, and everyone has stepped up,” UCC Director of Community Engagement Richard Greco said. “Everyone has had to adjust and everyone has stepped up to the plate.”