If you walk through the doors of New City Kids, you’ll notice three things: kids hard at work, music, and a caring staff. Those are hallmarks of New City Kids, a Christian Reformed ministry in Jersey City, N.J., and more recently in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Now that program is expanding to Jersey City Public School #22. New City Kids is partnering with Fountain of Salvation Church to create Lafayette After School Center. “This partnership is an example of a community coming alongside each other for the benefit of our children,” explained Gabriel Stiritz, development director for New City Kids in Jersey City. “We are addressing issues that deeply affect the communities we are in.”
These issues include the need for quality after school care and doing something about the high school dropout rate. Oscar Velez, the principal of PS #22, knows this and has been an advocate and supporter of New City Kids for several years. “We have been building this partnership over the past several years,” said Stiritz. New City Kids submitted a proposal to collaborate with PS #22 to the Jersey City Board of Education, and it was approved this fall.
The collaboration will allow New City Kids to do more of what they do best. That is, provide “hope-filled, quality programming [and] musical and academic support.” Stiritz explained that “children receive small group assistance with their homework from our teen and adult staff each day. They also learn performance and music theory through music class in bass, guitar, keyboards, drums, and vocals.” This sort of investment makes a difference in the direction children will grow.
Stiritz told the story of Mia, a young lady who has been with New City Kids since she was 9 years old. Despite her struggles with attitude problems and authority figures, the staff made a commitment to her and helped her see her potential. Today, of the 10 colleges and universities she applied to, she has been accepted by eight and is attending The College of New Jersey on a full-ride scholarship.
“Our program is an incredible experience because adults and teenagers not only act as role models, but love and invest in the children. Hope emerges when children are immersed in this community,” Stiritz said.