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Hire Newark Providing More Than Just Jobs

Alexandra Hill

The city of Newark recently celebrated it’s third class of Hire Newark graduates. The unique job readiness program, in partnership with Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and RWJBarnabas Health, that is giving unemployed residents a fresh outlook on life.

“We are so immeasurably different than people think we are by just looking at us.”

Fatima Hargrove is one of 20 graduates of Hire Newark, an employment boot camp and job readiness program that helps chronically unemployed residents re-enter the workforce.

“I was homeless at the time when I started the program so of course I was working toward doing that and still trying to be present and learn things about myself and be accepting of what people were offering me. Without them I wouldn’t have had that opportunity to be persistent with the right thing and to let God show me how to be accepting of other’s peoples view of me. Now I have school and now I have job.”

Hargrove, like many of the other participants, faced unique circumstances upon entering the program.  Atia Jahad- Rashidi, is the program administrator for Hire Newark.

“We have no idea who’s coming from what direction, and we learn very quickly that there are people are homeless, food insecurity is an issue, child care is an issue, and all of these things we learn to deal with as we process through each week of the class.”

Jahad- Rashidi says part of what makes this program unique is the lessons that are only taught through life experiences and perseverance.

“Life happens and this is what we teach them. Life is always going to happen its not just happening to you, because your in a situation, because your unemployed, because you didn’t get the bus card, because you didn’t have transportation, life is always going to happen, and so when life happens how do we react.”

Credit Alexandra Hill / 4323619530
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka attends graduation ceremony for third class of Newark Hires.

Newark is a city that has struggled with unemployment for decades. The unemployment rate was nearly twice the state’s average in 2014 when Mayor Ras Baraka was sworn into office. Baraka has since made the issue a cornerstone of his policy, launching initiative after initiative to bring that rate down, and at the end of 2016 the city saw its lowest unemployment rate in nearly a decade, something Baraka credits to programs like this.

“Its just amazing to me and it feels good, the amount of work that is happening, and it kind of speaks this narrative and tells the truth about our people, and all they need is a chance an opportunity, that if they get this chance an opportunity, that great things can happen for them, and its infectious, we want it to spread all over the city.”

Like a domino affect, the city’s unemployment rate affects many of the other socio-economic issues that often go hand in hand. Darrell Terry is President and CEO of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center a partner in Hire Newark.

“We have to look at those social determinants those issue that impact the overall health of our community, and so I think that’s our role I think that’s our new charge as a anchor institution in Newark and certainly the south ward.”

Like many programs, its success is often measured by its results; Takia Filmore is a Newark Hires alum.

Credit Alexandra Hill / 4323619530
Newark Beth Israel Medical Center President and CEO Darrell Terry hands out certificates to graduates of Hire Newark.

So many great things have happened since I was sitting in the same seats you guys are sitting in. I started a new job at Jersey City Medical Center, I’ve started my own business Kia’s Cakes, and me and my husband have purchased a new home, our first home.”

If Fillmore is any indication of the programs success, she is proof of what’s possible.

“You guys have so much to look forward to no matter what path you chose, and remember that one of the greatest gifts you give yourself, is right here, and with that being said congratulations class three.” 

Alexandra Hill began her work with WBGO in June of 2012 in the news department. A graduate of the Rutgers Newark journalism program, Alexandra was also a student of WBGO News Director Doug Doyle. Alexandra has since become the lead general assignment reporter, afternoon news anchor, and producer of the award winning live call in show Newark Today. Since working for WBGO Alexandra has covered politics in and around Newark including the 2014 mayoral campaign of Mayor Ras Baraka as well as the senate campaigns of former Newark Mayor and now U.S. Senator Cory Booker in both 2013 and 2014. Alexandra also covers a host of human-interest stories, and has been recognized by the New York Association Of Black Journalists for her piece entitled Sheltering Newark’s Homeless.