By DEBORAH ANN TRIPOLDI
Montclair and Paterson students are finding summer employment a bit easier thanks to a program through the nonprofit organization Good Success Academies, based in Montclair.
Project Life Summer Employment Program is open to all middle and high school students. The program consists of three components: paid summer work, career exploration and academic enrichment.
“It’s for all kids who have an interest in summer employment. It’s a multiracial program,” said the Rev. Allen Shelton of Watchung Presbyterian Church in Bloomfield who created the program. “The focus is at-risk and minorities.” The program is open to all however, he said.
The organization behind the program, Good Success Academies, was founded in 2010 and is housed in First Congregational Church, Montclair with the mission to “prepare high school youth for college, career and life.”
Shelton said that as a local pastor he saw the lack of structured summer activities for teenagers. He collaborated with other community leaders and organizations, including Montclair State University, to create an enter-the-workforce program for adolescents.
The Project Life Summer Employment Program started with just five students. This year the program enrolled 73 students— including students at Montclair High School and Immaculate Conception High School in Montclair, as well as Eastside High School and International High School in Paterson — due to donations received from St. Paul Baptist Church, Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair, St. James Episcopal Church, Congregation Shomrei Emunah, all in Montclair, and Watchung Presbyterian.
The program started with just three businesses, Gelotti, Vanillamore and Raymond’s, participating. This year six Montclair businesses signed on as partner employers. Students age 16 and up were able to complete the summer internship program with Raymond’s; Gelotti Ice Cream Restaurant, which has locations in Montclair, Caldwell and Paterson; Jefferson Café, Sharron Miller’s Academy for the Performing Arts; Montclair Art Museum; and a television internship with the broadcaster Steve Adubato.
Students under the age of 16 were able to participate in the Summer Entrepreneurial Program at MSU’s School of Business over the spring and then with local businesses in July. In 10 weeks during the spring, students learned the basic skills needed to seek and apply for employment, including resume writing and interview skills.
“We set the students up with interviews with the local businesses after they complete the 10-week classes,” said Shelton.
The students then work with a local business leader in the entrepreneurship in marketing and advertising, Shelton said.
“The students job shadow; they learn the job over the summer, and on July 28 they will run the restaurant and serve brunch and all the proceeds will benefit them,” he said.
Project Life Day brunch will be held Sunday, July 28, from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Vital Dining, 387 Bloomfield Ave., Montclair.
On Aug. 5, the students will take part in a college planning workshop sponsored by MSU.
The program is also in the process of creating a relationship with Rutgers University Newark campus to be able to reach Newark students.
Shelton is also in conversation with MSU to expand the summer program to a full academic year. “The year program will be a more extensive career exploration in partnership with Montclair State University, utilizing the faculty and departments to give kids a more in-depth look at future careers,” he said.
According to Shelton, getting the local businesses on board was easy.
“Last year, we received help from the Montclair Center BID and [then-director] Israel Cronk connected me with businesses in Montclair Center,” said Shelton.