By Jamaal Abdul-Alim

Innovative ‘RU Ready for Work’ initiative helps teens succeed in careers and in the classroom
youth today essex market

Credit: RU Ready for Work
College-bound high school senior Altis Cheatham assisting a senior with her groceries during the Essex County Seniors Farmers Market.

This story is being published in conjunction with YouthToday, an independent, nationally distributed newspaper that is read by professionals in the youth-service field.

When 19-year-old Malik McNeil runs into former schoolmates from the two high schools he attended here in the Brick City, usually they don’t have much good news to share.

“A lot of my peers got caught up in a lot of things,” McNeil said, listing an assortment of felonies, including robbery and burglary, which he says his former schoolmates have done time for. “Their situation is not the best.”

McNeil, a sophomore and prospective business management major at Kean University in Union, NJ, added, “They wish they went down the same road I went down.”

He’s talking about the road paved by RU Ready for Work, a youth development program created and administered by the Office of University-Community Partnerships, or OUCP, at Rutgers University-Newark.

It provides participants with college advice that regular school counselors often cannot, cash incentives of $100 per month during the school year, and part-time summer jobs for six weeks that pay minimum wage. Launched in 2008 as a “demonstration model,” the RU Ready for Work program has become one to watch.

Newark is mulling plans to use it as a training program for other organizations that want to help young people from economically disadvantaged backgrounds get prepared for college and entry into the workforce, program officials say.


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