Since 2017, more than 250 New Jersey youth ages 14-21 have worked to improve health and well-being for their families, friends and neighbors through New Jersey Health Initiatives’ (NJHI) Next Generation Community Leaders initiative. Two cohorts of youth from 10 communities partnered with school districts, local businesses, state and local service providers, and municipal leaders to learn about health priorities in their neighborhoods. While designing meaningful summer projects to build healthier and more equitable communities, the youth teams participated in leadership development retreats at YMCA Camp Ockanickon in Medford and at Rutgers University–Camden. Communications workshops, teambuilding exercises and other skill-building activities helped prepare the youth teams to implement projects that addressed food security and traffic safety; evaluated chronic absenteeism from a youth perspective; enhanced walkability; revitalized community green space; conducted home audits for older adults, and connected residents of all ages to available resources such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
…being a part of this group has changed my perspective on adults. There are some who are willing to help our youth and support us. I am not afraid to talk with different people about this group and all the great things we have done in our community and for its residents.
– Kayana Clue, Bridgeton
Having realized their leadership potential and reflected on the impact of authentic adult-youth partnerships and the relationships they have built with their coaches and teammates, the Next Generation Community Leaders alumni have begun their final grant year. Throughout the year, the alumni will focus on identifying and filling civic roles and leadership opportunities on committees, boards and teams where they can continue to work with adults to create meaningful community change.
An Interim Report from Rutgers University-Camden outlines early lessons and successes that communities and youth-serving organizations can implement to afford everyone the opportunity to live healthier.
Read the report, plus
Discover additional learnings from the archived #NJHIChat “Engaging Today’s Youth in Building Healthier Communities”
Meet all 10 NJHI: Next Generation Community Leaders grantee communities, learn more about each youth team and browse news coverage of their work: Atlantic City, Bound Brook, Bridgeton, Camden & Pennsauken, Elizabeth, Newark, Paterson, Perth Amboy, Secaucus and Trenton.
Browse resources for building a healthier community developed by the first-year Next Generation Community Leaders teams here.
Follow the alumni teams’ progress, and connect with the nearest team and NJHI at #NJLeaders2030 on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.