New Jersey Health Initiatives Announces $2 Million in Grants to Next Generation of Community Leaders

Princeton, NJ (July 11, 2017) – New Jersey Health Initiatives (NJHI) – the statewide grantmaking program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) – today announced plans to harness the energy, knowledge and idealism of young people ages 14-21 across New Jersey, to prepare them as future leaders while learning to address barriers to health in their own communities.

“In New Jersey’s vulnerable communities such as Bridgeton and Newark, up to 40% of the population is under the age of 18. Youth bring a different perspective about their health and their community than adults,” explained Bob Atkins, PhD, RN, FAAN, director of NJHI. “However, adults don’t always view them as valuable community resources, and youth need such opportunities to be engaged in planning and decision making while receiving adult coaching and guidance to create meaningful, sustainable change. Through this initiative, NJHI will establish a network of 200-plus youth — from varying educational, economic and social backgrounds — and provide leadership development that will equip them to help build a Culture of Health in their communities.”

Youth will design and implement projects that address the unique health needs of their community.

Through NJHI: Next Generation Community Leaders, 10 grants of $200,000 each have been awarded to organizations over three years to develop the youths’ civic engagement skills, involve them in meaningful summer employment, and help them participate in an alumni network that will be the foundation for their future leadership endeavors. Each grantee will form two teams of local youth, mentor them in leadership and population health issues, and facilitate the teams’ work. The youth teams will design and implement projects that address the unique health needs of their community. Throughout the grant period, each grantee will identify opportunities to further engage the youth in leadership roles, perhaps establishing youth advisory boards or inviting the youth teams to report on their work at city council meetings. NJHI will encourage the youth to share their progress and network during statewide youth convenings.

The following organizations have been awarded grants under the NJHI: Next Generation Community Leaders initiative:

Civic and government leaders, health and human services officials, and universities from the various communities will also be directly involved with educating the youth participants. Mayor Ras Baraka is among those who will be working directly with the selected youth in Newark, as will Mayor Al Kelly in Bridgeton.

“This work will enable young people to acquire a sophisticated understanding of the barriers to health they see impacting their families, friends and neighbors, and provide the resources to affect meaningful, sustainable, change both now and in the future,” said Atkins. “Youth are an underutilized asset, and we can’t build healthier communities without them. While we can’t predict how many future mayors, school board members, Little League presidents or Chamber of Commerce presidents will emerge from this group, I look forward to seeing the solutions they design, and also watching them mature as community leaders.”

To learn more about the NJHI: Next Generation Community Leaders initiative, participate in the conversation online with the hashtag #NJLeaders2030. In 2030, the youth participating in NJHI: Next Generation Community Leaders will be 29-31 years old, poised to expand their impact as effective leaders, and one election cycle away from meeting the minimum age requirement for a U.S. presidential bid.

About New Jersey Health Initiatives

New Jersey Health Initiatives is the statewide grantmaking program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Established in 1987 in honor of the New Jersey philanthropic legacy of RWJF’s founder, Robert Wood Johnson, NJHI supports innovations and drives conversations to build healthier communities through grantmaking across the State of New Jersey. To meet the many health needs of our state’s diverse populations, regions and communities, the NJHI program encourages collaboration across sectors to foster deep relationships committed to long-term change affording all New Jerseyans the opportunity to live the healthiest life possible. Learn more about NJHI at, and follow us on Twitter at or on Facebook at

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the largest private foundation in New Jersey and the nation’s largest philanthropy working to improve the health and health care of all. The Foundation is striving to build a national Culture of Health that will enable all to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. RWJF has invested more than $1.2 billion in New Jersey since 1972. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at

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