‘I had a second chance.’ Newark opens re-engagement center to bring education, careers to young people

The program is a partnership with the city of Newark and Newark Public Schools.

Naomi Yané

Mar 27, 2024, 12:41 AM

Updated 21 days ago


The city of Newark opened a re-engagement center to reconnect the city's young people with education opportunities and career paths.
Stephan Young, 25, was born and raised in Newark's Central Ward. He's now well on his way to starting a four-year business program at Rutgers Newark this fall. But his road there wasn't an easy one.
"Father was in prison, my mom passed away when I was young, when I was 1 years old. I grew into the street life,” Young says.
Young was raised by his grandmother and between the ages of 14 to 24 he was in and out of jail, with his recent stint putting him away for 5 1/2 years. But seeing pictures of his quickly-growing son Jasai while he was away gave Young a new lease on life.
"Being away from him for those years, it ain't sit right for me. I didn't have a father...how can I do that... if I ain't have a father...he has a father, he's here and I had a second chance,” says Young.
Young was released last August and was in a halfway house when he was introduced to the re-engagement program.
"It was just like a new life and I took that quote of a new life and just applied it to myself and tried to turn over a new leaf,” he says.
The program is a partnership with the city of Newark and Newark Public Schools to reconnect young people with education and career paths. The re-engagement center provides participants ages 13-24 with school placement, social support, career development and other programs.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said it's an investment in the city's future by helping to build the workforce and keep talent in Newark.
"We need to begin to target folks that are underrepresented, giving them the skills and the trades that they need to compete in the workforce so they can get jobs in areas where we need folks the most. The only way to get Newark's future back is to make sure we invest in young people,” the mayor says.
According to Newark's 2018 public impact report, before the COVID-19 pandemic, Newark’s youth disconnection was around 4,000 young people, with new data showing a possibly larger number. With this center, city officials hope to decrease those numbers and encourage more turnarounds like Young’s.
Young called on other men and women who were like him to be a part of a positive change.
"It starts from the streets, if we got the street guys that's willing to help, let's do it,” he says.

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