Guiding My Fellow Elizabeth Youth to Find their Community Voice

NJHI 2017: Next Generation Community Leaders Preparing Elizabeth’s Next Generation of Community Leaders

My name is Nicholas Romero and I was part of the first cohort for Groundwork Elizabeth’s Next Generation Community Leaders team that was created through a NJHI grant in July 2017.  The Next Generation Community Leaders program was established to understand health challenges and build a program to address these challenges with a group of youth representatives from our Elizabeth community. Through the program, we also learned skills to help us become the Next Generation of Community Leaders.

Our youth team raised our voices for community health by engaging seniors as we visited their homes to help them identify and address safety and health issues. After completing the program, our project director and coaches asked me to participate in an alumni group for this year’s youth team. I gladly accepted. I was grateful for the opportunity to be part of a program that taught us how to work together for a common goal and in the process, how to get along with each other.

When I met the new group…I was a little scared…but I also felt motivated to help them.

Alumni Nicholas Romero and Ivy White look on at the 2018 Next Generation Community Leaders Youth Retreat at YMCA Camp Ockanickon.

When I met the new group of youth for the first time, I was a little scared. I wondered what they would think of me, but I also felt motivated to help them. I had learned so much in my year with the Groundwork team that I knew I could guide these new members.

I met the second-year team in September, before their Youth retreat at YMCA Camp Ockanickon. I told them about my experiences building a team during the first grant year.  The second half of this introductory meeting focused on the upcoming retreat. When I went with my cohort in 2017, I didn’t know what to expect. During that weekend retreat, we played games, developed friendships, and met other youth from other cities. I remember leaving Camp Ockanickon very eager to work in my community.  This time around, I felt different because when I arrived at Camp Ockanickon for this year’s retreat, the new youth team came to me for advice.  I felt they trusted me, and I realized that I had come a long way in one year. I learned that even someone who is quiet is still learning. I also learned that in the end, teamwork can make everything better. I am becoming a Next Generation Community Leader.

Follow Elizabeth’s Next Generation Community Leaders team to see their progress throughout July. Track all of the Next Generation Community Leaders teams through the hashtag #NJLeaders2030.

The Grantee Blog publishes a different NJHI-supported community’s update every week. Bookmark this site to stay up-to-date and share in the work of building healthier communities across New Jersey.
Nicholas Romero
Groundwork Elizabeth