Pinelands Adventure: A Journey Through the Woods

By: Ny’Janah Pride


On July 28, 2016, a group of youth interns from the UVSO Teen Center Youth leadership Corp took a field trip to Pinelands Adventure. Pinelands Adventure is located in the Pine Barrens in South Jersey, a very wooded and sandy haven filled with fresh air and sandy roads. It is said to be a preserved area because of the clean water that is located underground among the bedrock. The water is filtered underground and residents tap into it through wells in their homes or on their properties. This is also how farming is successful for many people in the Pine Barrens. Wells also feed irrigation systems. Mr. John Volpa, our tour guide also educated us on the different types of soil found there, and how plants can only survive if they can naturally access water aquifers underground. Trees, blueberry’s, pinecones and mushrooms do very well there. The endless bugs seemed to do well too.

We also took a hike through the Pineland woods. During the hike, we analyzed the different types of plants and fruits that naturally grow wild. Along the tour, Mr. John gave trivia questions, and for each question answered correctly, we earned a fruit snack. The last thing we experienced in the woods was canoeing.  It was difficult at first, but towards the end, everyone got the hang of it. The trip was a great experience and very educational. Personally, I enjoyed myself even though there was a myriad of bugs. I was afraid to canoe at first because my group and I kept getting stuck in the bushes, but Mr. John helped us back to shore. I gained a lot of knowledge on this adventure and recommend that other youth groups explore the woods too!


Schooled At Ivy Hill Park

By Kamieha Greene

On Wednesday, July 27, 2016, the UVSO Department Community Outreach & Planning (DCOP) team took a trip up to Ivy Hill Park. We were not exactly sure why we were there. We were only told that the DCOP Outreach Coordinator, Pamela Daniels was being interviewed. When we arrived, we met Carolyn Jones and her team from 100 People Foundation. She and her camera crew were filming Ms. Pam (as we call her) as part of a special Newark Celebration 350 project called “100 People of Newark.” What we also did not know was that as Ms. Pam’s interns, we would be part of a photo shoot too! So for the first fifteen minutes we were really “on location” at Ivy Hill Park taking shot after shot until the 100 People Foundation had what they needed. After the lavish shoot, Ms. Jones sat with Ms. Pam and began the interview. She was asked questions like, “How did you come to work at UVSO?” and “How do you want your work to be remembered?” and “What do you want millennials to know about community development work?”

After viewing Ms. Pam’s experience, I learned that hard work leads to recognition both personal and also for your organization. I learned that even though African-American women face a lot of odds, they can beat them by working hard. I learned that it only takes one fish to create a ponds-worth of success. This was an experience I can never forget. I look forward to the finished project, which is slated for the end of the year.

FLYER_Benefits of Green Infrastructure

Green Coalition Puts Newark First

By: Nia Alexander

On Tuesday, July 26, 2016, the UVSO Department of Community Outreach & Planning (DCOP) attended the monthly Newark DIG meeting at Newark City Hall. Newark DIG stands for Newark is Doing Infrastructure Green. Newark DIG is a partnership with Rutgers Cooperative Extension Water Resources Program, The Trust for Public Land, Greater Newark Conservancy, NY/NJ BayKeeper, New Jersey Tree Foundation, Unified Vailsburg Services Organization, Ironbound Community Corporation, Clean Water Action, Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission, and many other community organizations tworking together to help keep Newark’s infrastructure up to code with the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Each organization at the table wants to make Newark a healthier and greener city.

This meeting was filled with representatives from different organizations. During the meeting, Ms. Pam brought up a situation that occurred on July 14, 2016. Heart Of Vailsburg (HOV) residents were witnessing Lindsley Grocery, a store located on Brookdale Avenue and Lindsley Place pour hot grease from the store into the sewer drain. That is obviously a problem. The sewer drain can get backed up and effect everything from unsanitary water to blockage in the pipelines. This is when the coalition comes in handy. All the different organizations at the table came together to try and solve the issue. The City of Newark Engineering Department representative pledged to follow-up with Code Enforcement to see if they had received the HOV letter explaining the issue and if actions were taken. The representative from the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission shared an enforcement department website and phone number where issues like that can be reported and that department is most likely to follow-up more quickly than the City since they have the DEP an EPA power to do so. The Newark DIG Chairperson also encouraged the coalition that if they have any similar stories, they should share it with her so the issue can be shared with the whole committee.

Toxic liquid waste added into the water system can lead to combined sewer overflow more quickly whether there is a lot of rain or not. It can also cause everything to become backed up in communities, which we see throughout Newark when heavy rainfall occurs. While listening to this meeting there were many interesting things talked about and many great solutions mentioned. These organizations come up with different plans to help keep Newark’s water, pipes, and environment safe and clean for Newark’s residents.



Ready Or Not: Preparing Seniors For the Next Emergency

By: Jenia Jones


We all remember Hurricane Sandy and how many were not prepared for it. How many cases of water did you have on hand? Did you have batteries? A flashlight? Jewish Family Services of Metrowest New Jersey, Senior Corps RSVP, PSEG and UVSO partnered for an event to create over 1,000 emergency supply bags for the senior citizen community of Newark. The event was held at the UVSO Teen Center on Thursday, July 21, 2016, and kicked off with opening remarks Councilman Joseph McCallum.

“Most people are not prepared for disasters even when they think they are,” said David Morgan the guest speaker from Safety First who provides disaster preparedness training for EMT’s and other community entities.

The items in each of the bags are a glimpse into what is needed to be SAFE and PREPARED in a disastrous storm or other emergency scenario. The kits included water bottles to stay hydrated, hand sanitizer in case water turns brown or becomes contaminated in another way, flashlights in case power goes out, a can opener for non-perishable items, first aid kit, and a survival blanket.

What made the effort even better is the fact that the senior community created the bags themselves. The partners were helping the seniors, but the seniors were helping the organizers too. That’s always a good fit. By the end of the day – two shifts later, nearly 1200 kits were complete reaching the partnership’s goal.

The bags will be distributed throughout the city of Newark over the next several weeks. If you know a senior age 60 and over who could use an emergency kit, contact Debra Friday, Senior Services Manager at UVSO via 973.374.2000 x. 1401 or Don’t forget to check out the UVSO Senior Center on Facebook!



Check out the full album from the Disaster Preparedness Day on Facebook!

Outreach Intern Discovers Photographer’s ‘Tude

By: Jenia Jones


For the first time, I got to experience the UVSO campus from the lens of a photographer. With all honesty, I can say that the job was not easy, but it was because I got to experience the life of three and four-year-olds old enjoying the summer heat. On my journey, I saw a lot of fascinating activities like water fights, garden planting, and a large amount of hyper children. From time to time I say to myself that I would enjoy the luxury of having a younger sibling.

Spending a day shooting these little gals and guys makes me feel like my dream has finally come true – a little. I remember the first day I was assigned to taking photos of the Vailsburg Child Development Center (VCDC) children. It was July 14th and was part of the UVSO effort to participate in the National Summer Learning Day #SummertimeNewark campaign. On that day, I took photos at the VCDC Smith Street day care in the middle of their water fight. My goodness, I didn’t know if I should have been more concerned with getting the shot or saving my clothes from being drenched. All that changed when a little girl came up to me and said to me, “It’s summer time! Get wet and have fun!” After that little voice of wisdom, I just felt like there was no way I couldn’t enjoy this assignment or the rest of my summer shoots.Overall, I believe that the key to a great summer for me is having the right attitude. Just knowing that all my little brothers and sisters are enjoying their summer is enough to keep a smile on my face. I hope that through my taking these photos and sharing them with the community, I can help you feel the same way. #SummertimeNewark

Overall, I believe that the key to a great summer for me is having the right attitude. Just knowing that all my little brothers and sisters are enjoying their summer is enough to keep a smile on my face. I hope that through my taking these photos and sharing them with the community, I can help you feel the same way. #SummertimeNewark

Making a Difference in the Heart of Vailsburg

By: Kamieha Greene

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 10.27.15 PM

I experienced something new and very different at the Heart of Vailsburg (HOV) Block Club Coalition General Assembly on Wednesday, July 13th. I have never witnessed people meeting together to express concerns about their block. There were even City of Newark officials present representing Councilman-At-Large Eddie Osborne and West Ward Councilman Joseph McCallum.

It was very surprising hearing the honesty of the challenges residents face while city officials were present. It takes courage to speak out to express how you feel, when people in power are there perhaps even judgment. For example, an elder who resides on Alexander Street shared a story about how she feels the issues on her block are not being taken care of. She expressed frustration to a city official the previous week at another community meeting and that official told her, so why don’t you move. The woman was visibly upset and yet still came to the General Assembly.

Another senior who lives on Boylan Street brought up a concern about trees looming over her house. A city official from Councilman Osborne’s office went outside to obtain the address while the issue was also added to the HOV Accountability Document.

Almost everyone present took some kind of notes, asked questions, and contributed to the meeting. The HOV Steering Committee offered many helpful tips on how to improve the Vailsburg we see everyday. I also learned that an elder and Steering Committee member, Richard Hart, maintains the Healthy Haven Gardens especially the 18th Avenue Haven.

The meeting also showed me that people who want to better Vailsburg volunteer their time to go to the Block Club Coalition General Assembly to make sure their voices are heard. I think it’s very important for residents to come out to meetings because by doing that, they are collectively making a huge difference.

The Heart of Vailsburg Block Club Coalition meets every first Wednesday at 6PM at the Love of Jesus Church located at 88 Boylan Street in Vailsburg. I encourage all my neighbors young and old to join together. One person can make a difference, dozens can change a community. If you are interesting in joining the HOV team, you can email the Steering Committee at Follow HOV on Twitter @HOV_BCC and on Instagram @HeartOfVailsburg_BCC.

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 10.08.48 PM

Youth Park Rangers Visit Healthy Haven Gardens

By: Nia Alexander

On Tuesday, July 19, 2016 a group of youth Park Rangers from the Jessie Allen Park (JAP) Summer Program took a tour through the Heart Of Vailsburg (HOV) Healthy Haven Gardens located at 69 Norwood Street and 1068 18th Avenue in Vailsburg. The JAP Park Rangers were given a tour by the UVSO Department of Community Outreach & Planning’s (DCOP) Outreach Coordinator, Pamela Daniels and DCOP interns Jenia, Nia, Ny’Janah, Kamieha, and Taylor.

At the Norwood Garden Haven, the Park Rangers learned about the different plants growing in the garden and found out that they were organic and edible. They learned that there were herbs and vegetables in both gardens, and that the Vailsburg Garden Committee has managed both gardens for five years.

The rangers were given tips on how to use the herbs in the garden, which were Rosemary, Spearmint, Basil, Thai Basil, Parsley, Sage, Dill, and Oregano. Some chose to harvest herbs, while others harvested Collard Greens, Cucumbers, and Tomatoes. A myriad of pictures were taken of the rangers enjoying the scenery. Some of the rangers were from the neighborhood and never knew the garden was there! Those who harvested were eager to take home their goodies and put them to good use!

At the conclusion of the tour, which ended at the 18th Avenue Garden Haven, the JAP program director, Rhenotha Whittaker, quizzed her students on what they learned. She started out simply with, “What does HOV stand for?” One of the Park rangers answered, “Heart of Vailsburg!” and was rewarded with “You’ve earned your snack!” The next question that was asked was, “What color tomatos did they pick?” Another Park Ranger answered, “Green tomatoes.” Ms. Whittaker followed up with, “What is the best way to prepare green tomatoes,” and a ranger fired back “fry them!” She too earned a snack. The final question asked was, “What type of herbs were there?” One Ranger said, “Parsley, Oregano, Rosemary and Basil.” Some other rangers followed up with hands raised showing their spearmint and parsley. (they forgot dill and that spicy thai basil!)

After trivia the Jesse Allen Park Park Rangers took a group photo on the garden stage to commemorate the grand tour. Additional photos of the tour are posted on the UVSO Facebook page for viewing. Feel free to share the album!

An Experience We Won’t Forget, Newark’s Bravest Open House

By Nia Alexander

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 10.04.12 PMOn Thursday, July 14th, the UVSO Department of Community Outreach & Planning (DCOP) accompanied by interns Nia, Jenia, and Taylor attended the Newark Fire Department (NFD) Open House at the fire station located on Palm Street in Vailsburg, which houses Engine 26 and Ladder 12. The firefighters welcomed visitors inside of their home from 10AM to 3PM in an effort to show the people of the community what goes an aspect of the department they do not often see. During the open house, the DCOP interns learned how the NFD help protect their community and families, and also learned some home fire safety tips to share with the young and old.

While taking the tour through the firehouse there were many great questions asked and many interesting responses. The firemen shared the difference between the two fire trucks. One truck is called a ladder and the other truck is called an engine. The interns got a chance to climb in and on top of the fire trucks to learn how they operate and what the spacing was like. They learned that there is a button for every sound that the truck makes. For example, there’s a sound for the emergency siren and a different sound for the “get out the way” horn. The firefighters also said that they flush the hydrants twice a year to make sure that everything is fine, and to make sure it’s filled with enough water. One firefighter said that they have to keep track of their radios at all times, because if they lose them, they have to pay $4,000. The interns also learned that there are daily, monthly, and annual trainings from HAZMAT and blood borne pathogens, to sexual harassment.

Intern Jenia asked, “What is your working schedule like?” They said, “We work 24 hour shifts and then get 3 days off. These are called tours. Each fire fighter works a different schedule.” To become a firefighter one has to be fit. During the academy, firefighter candidates have to run an obstacle course to see what their strengths and weaknesses are. When the firehouse is called to a scene the engine truck always leads first. In case of an emergency, firefighters’ clothes are always left inside the truck, on the struck or close to the truck.

The Newark Fire Department Open House was educational, interesting, and fun. We would love to do it again, and thank you for being, “There when you need us!”

The Center of Love, Memory and Acceptance

UVSO teens & Dir. Malik El-Amin taking a break from their summer job assignments
UVSO teens & Dir. Malik El-Amin taking a break from their summer job assignments

by Erica L., UVSO Summer Teen Worker

I still remember my first day at the Teen Center. One of my bestest friends dragged me inside while I tugged on my olive green sweater and adjusted my glasses. “They’ll love you. We’re like a family here.” She was always outgoing; I was more silent and reserved. I honestly didn’t think this was for me.

Continue reading