Program Areas


Because there is a high correlation between educational deficits and negative social and economic outcomes, The Nicholson Foundation’s educational initiatives are aimed at increasing student participation and engagement.  These efforts include
pre-K enrollment, alternative high schools, work preparation programs, improving student safety, and improving school attendance and participation in extracurricular programs.


The Abbott Pre-School Initiative
Newark has been under-utilizing its pre-school programs.  As of the fall of 2004, over 3000 of Newark’s 8500 three- and four-year-old children were not enrolling in the City’s free, licensed early education programs.  The absent children were not benefiting from the opportunity to lay a solid foundation for later academic success, and the City was losing $30 million in jobs and economic stimulus annually because the State had stopped funding the unutilized slots.  In response, Newark Public Schools, Essex County’s Department of Citizen Services, the pre-K advocacy group Program for Parents, Rutgers School of Social Work, Churches in Cooperation, and the Latino Parent Intervention Program joined with The Nicholson Foundation, as funder, to identify which children were not enrolled, learn why, and register them, if possible.

The vast majority of pre-schoolers not attending programs turned out to be from families on welfare living in public housing.  Many are being raised by grandparents who are living in buildings - - exclusively for seniors; they feared that registering their grandchildren would draw attention to the pre-schoolers’ unsanctioned presence in their apartments.  Suitable school clothing, obtaining inoculations, locating an opening, and family indifference to the importance of pre-K education were also barriers.  With these insights, the partners developed an outreach program to address the obstacles and to explain the importance of early education.  As of the fall of 2005, enrollment was up by 1000 children to over 6100.  Two new collaborators subsequently joined the partnership, the New Jersey Commissioner of Education and the Newark Mayor’s Educational Policy Representative.  The program is being replicated in Jersey City under the leadership of the Urban League of Hudson County.  (Entry dated summer 2006)


Safe Summer Safe Schools
In 2005, there were 97 homicides in Newark, among those, 16 school age children were shot to death.  Gang activity was rising significantly and school violence increased 40% over the prior year, negatively affecting attendance, particularly in the after-school programs.  By the spring of 2006, Newark’s leadership and other county stakeholders were vocal in their determination to stem the explosion of violence endangering the city’s children and citizens at large.  The Newark Superintendent of Schools, school principals and safety officers, the Newark Police Department, the Mayor’s Office, parent groups, community and faith-based organizations, the Essex County Executive, the County DA’s Office, the County Sheriff Department, Newark NOW, and The Nicholson Foundation came together to develop a well-organized multi-pronged approach.  The objectives were to change the climate on the streets and in the schools; to improve parenting, surveillance, and policing; to provide children, young adults, and families with healthy activities and safe venues for engagement; and to address the complex issues contributing to violent crime.

With Nicholson Foundation funding, a Project Manager was hired to manage the implementation of Safe Schools’ “Crime and Violence Prevention Action Plan,” which comprises over 60 initiatives.  The focus is on thirteen particularly crime-ridden locations, Safe Summer Zones, and on fourteen schools with serious safety problems.  The Project Manager brings together the appropriate stakeholders and tracks and expedites progress on each of these initiatives to ensure implementation.  Committees including representatives from Newark Public Schools, the Mayor's Office, and community groups have been formed to focus on workforce development initiatives, Safe Schools community involvement, mentoring, truancy initiatives, and law enforcement.  The Nicholson Foundation maintains the accountability system for the overall plan, and the collaboration helps spur the creativity of the different partners.  To support the plan, Nicholson funded three specific programs that involved all the stakeholders.  The first funds 13 pairs of Community Organizers, one for each of the Zones and related targeted schools, to educate parents and caregivers about the many programs available for youth engagement and family well being, to enroll the families in these activities, and to organize weekend events.  A second provides mini-grants to fund the pivotal participation of faith-based organizations supplying leadership, supervision, sanctuaries and activities for each of the Zones and schools.  The third funds parent/school advisory committees in each of the schools.  (Entry dated fall 2006)


Work Internships for High Risk Children
Forty percent of Newark’s students drop out of high school, and many of them enter the juvenile justice system.  Working with Newark NOW, the Mayor’s Office, the Newark Public Schools and its School to Careers program, the Youth One-Stop Development Commission, Communities in Schools of New Jersey, and other faith- and community-based organizations, The Nicholson Foundation provided co-funding with the City of Newark to create two programs to provide 170 employment internships during the summer of 2006.  One of the programs focused on high risk youth on probation or parole in Newark.  Having these youth productively engaged and earning money—giving them some hope for the future—contributed, along with other important initiatives, to the 14% reduction in violent crime in Newark for the summer of 2006 compared to 2005.  Violent crime was down 32% in the Safe Summer Zones.  (Entry dated fall 2006)


Newark Workforce Development Institute
In another initiative, the Newark Public Schools, the Mayor’s Office of Employment and Training, Communities in Schools of New Jersey, New Jersey’s Youth Development Commission’s Workforce One-Stop Center, and The Nicholson Foundation have developed an alternative school, the Newark Workforce Development Institute (NWDI), where 16- to 21-year-old dropouts are able to study for a high school diploma in the evening while working during the day in jobs that offer some academic credit.  The Nicholson Foundation provided Communities in Schools the funding to hire a job developer to create the employment opportunities.  The Foundation has also funded the Director of the Institute.  (Entry dated winter 2007)