Posted Tuesday, June 19th, 2018
County Supports Unique Education Program for Young Adults
Celeste Tuvi had a bad start at Mount Olive High School — and then things got worse. Tuvi got into an altercation with a male classmate her freshman year, and as a sophomore, she was hospitalized three times for an illness.
“I had a controversial reputation because of the fight, and then when I got sick, no one asked me why I wasn’t as school; they just made up stories,” Tuvi said.
With too much work to make up in her honors classes, she left school last June.
The Budd Lake resident enrolled in NewBridge Services’ alternative education program, “NewBridge Jobs Plus,’’ and by August had earned her New Jersey High School degree. “NewBridge Jobs Plus’ staff was very supportive in every way,” she said.
Tuvi is one of 44 young adults in the NewBridge Jobs Plus Class of 2018 and one of 33 to don caps and gowns at the commencement last week at Wyndham Worldwide headquarters in Parsippany. More than 200 relatives and friends cheered as graduates shared stories of perseverance and proudly walked across the stage to accept their diplomas.
Tuvi, who was named NewBridge Jobs Plus Associate of the Year, is enrolling in CCM’s nursing program.
“We are so proud of our graduates for not giving up on themselves when traditional high schools failed them,” said NewBridge Chief Operating Office L. Michelle Borden. “They persevered and overcame challenges to get themselves on track for a better future.”
“This is an excellent program that reaches out to struggling young adults in our county and gives them a chance to reach their potential,’’ said Morris County Freeholder Kathy DeFillippo. “Congratulations to the students, their families, and to NewBridge for providing them with this excellent opportunity.’’
NewBridge Jobs Plus is the longest-running alternative education program in Morris County and has helped well over 1,000 young adults earn their high school diplomas and prepare for college, trade schools and careers since 1983. The program, located at the NewBridge Parsippany Center, is free to young adults living in Morris, Sussex and Warren counties, and transportation is provided to Morris County residents.
The program receives funding from the Morris County Board of Freeholders; Morris County Department of Human Services; Morris-Sussex-Warren Employment Training Services; Charles Emil Thenen Foundation; Community Foundation of New Jersey; Holmes Family Foundation; John Bickford Foundation; Lakeland Bank; TD Bank Charitable Foundation; United Way of Northern New Jersey; and Wyndham Worldwide.
This year’s graduates are from Budd Lake, Dover, Flanders, Kinnelon, Lake Hopatcong, Landing, Lincoln Park, Long Valley, Montville, Morris Plains, Morristown, Mount Arlington, Parsippany, Randolph and Wharton.
Morristown resident Raheem Harris missed too much time at Morristown High School to graduate with his class. His aunt died “and I was dealing with a lot,” the 18-year-old said. But he was determined to earn his high school diploma on time and experience a graduation ceremony — something his mother had missed out on when she left high school and earned a GED certificate. (He has watched her receive her associate’s and bachelor’s degrees as a single mother.)
“NewBridge Jobs Plus was a breath of fresh air. They wanted me to do my best and succeed,” said Harris, who will train to become a dental assistant at Fortis Institute in Wayne.
Laura Perez, 18, had anxiety and depression that affected her performance at Mount Olive High School. In November, her guidance counselor suggested NewBridge Jobs Plus could help.
“I had lost hope in myself, and I found it again at NewBridge,” said Perez, who received the $1,000 James Ryan Memorial Scholarship Award, named for one of NewBridge’s founders. The Budd Lake resident will study drama at County College of Morris in the fall.
Nicholas Calvete said he missed a lot of classes at Morris Hills High School after becoming a father at age 16. He left in January 2017 and got a job landscaping, but his dream was to work in the medical field. He enrolled at NewBridge Jobs Plus last June.
“Everyone there helped me open my eyes to see a lot of stuff, and to get my work done,” Calvete said. They also listened to his challenges of fatherhood and provided advice. “I always had someone to talk to,” said the 19-year-old Wharton resident, who will study nursing at County College of Morris in September.
Randolph resident Christopher Grushin looked stunned when he was called up on stage to accept the $1,000 Lakeland Bank Scholarship Award. “I never thought I’d stand on one of these!” said Grushin, who will study music at CCM in the fall.
Graduates heard from former NewBridge trustee Francis McEnerney, whose daughter, Meghan, graduated from the NewBridge Jobs Plus a decade ago and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree at Rutgers University. Perseverance and character are what count in life, McEnerney said.
Anthony Justo, a 2016 NewBridge Jobs Plus graduate, shared how NewBridge Jobs Plus helped him finally feel connected to the world, after years of alienation that led to drug use and imprisonment. Justo is starting a personal training business, is engaged to be married, and will soon become a father. “Recognize that as long as you do your best, nothing else matters,” he told the graduates.
NewBridge Services is a nonprofit provider of counseling services, housing and educational programs in northern New Jersey, serving more than 8,000 adults and seniors last year alone. NewBridge treats mental illnesses and addictions; teaches skills for coping with stress, grief and challenging relationships; builds and manages affordable housing; offers school-based programs that teach children and adolescents resiliency skills for healthy emotional development; helps young adults succeed in their education and prepare for careers; and supports seniors so they can remain independent.