August 28, 2017

Mayor Ras Baraka, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Abbott Leadership Institute at Rutgers University - Newark Announce Grants for Stipends for City's Youth

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Newark receiving $200,000 grant for 30 youth aged 14-21 to serve as leaders and mentors. Program has youth working with the Abbott Leadership Institute at RU-Newark and the Mayor’s Youth Office to create healthier communities

Newark, NJ –- August 28, 2017 – Mayor Ras J. Baraka, the Abbott Leadership Institute at Rutgers University Newark, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation are partnering through a $200,000 RWJF grant for the Youth Media Symposium/Newark Youth Ambassadors program. 

The money, part of $2 million in grants being awarded to 10 youth programs statewide, will enable 30 Newark youth aged 14-21 to receive guidance from trained community-based coaches, to better understand topics around population health, develop leadership skills, and implement self-designed projects to make their communities healthier. By the end of this project, the youth participants will have the skills, knowledge, and confidence to work with municipal governments, cross-sector coalitions focused on health, school boards, and other organizations to build healthier and more vibrant communities. 

“The Newark Youth Ambassadors program is one of our most important initiatives in strengthening both the lives of our youth and the future of our city,” Mayor Baraka said. “Our youth will learn valuable life skills while learning to create a healthier city. They will develop a commitment to community by working in the community. We believe that when youth gain early exposure to and work in community service, they become inspired to join us as adults in public service. We will need this energy, idealism, and strength in the coming years, and as both a Newark educator and the city’s chief executive, I am grateful to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for enabling us to empower our youth in this manner.” 

Junius Williams, Director of the Abbott Leadership Institute said, “Our experience in developing youth leaders through the Youth Media Symposium will be utilized to expose young people to the need to think through health problems in their community, and propose solutions that they can make happen. YMS has shown that young people in Newark can take on serious projects that enable them to partner with adults in making Newark a better place in which to live. We look forward to developing this cohort of youth in conjunction with the city.” 

The youth will also participate in a statewide alumni network to stay connected to their peers as they continue on their leadership paths and move into the next phases of their lives. To advance this work in Newark, ALI will partner with Mayor Baraka, Rutgers-Newark’s Law School and Biomedical and Health Sciences, Newark’s Department of Health, law enforcement officials, as well as community service providers and residents. 

“In New Jersey’s vulnerable communities such as Bridgeton and Newark, up to 40% of the population is under the age of 18. Youth bring a different perspective about their health and their community than adults,” explained Bob Atkins, PhD, RN, FAAN, director of NJHI. “However, adults don’t always view them as valuable community resources, and youth need such opportunities to be engaged in planning and decision making while receiving adult coaching and guidance to create meaningful, sustainable change. Through this initiative, NJHI will establish a network of 200-plus youth — from varying educational, economic and social backgrounds — and provide leadership development that will equip them to help build a Culture of Health in their communities. I look forward to seeing the solutions they design, and also watching them mature as community leaders.” 

Civic and government leaders, health and human services officials, and universities from the various communities will also be directly involved with educating the youth participants. Mayor Baraka is among those who will be working directly with the selected youth in Newark. 

To learn more about the NJHI: Next Generation Community Leaders initiative, participate in the conversation online with the hashtag #NJLeaders2030. In 2030, the youth participating in NJHI: Next Generation Community Leaders will be 29-31 years old, poised to expand their impact as effective leaders, and one election cycle away from meeting the minimum age requirement for a U.S. presidential bid. 

About New Jersey Health Initiatives

New Jersey Health Initiatives is the statewide grantmaking program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Established in 1987 in honor of the New Jersey philanthropic legacy of RWJF’s founder, Robert Wood Johnson, NJHI supports innovations and drives conversations to build healthier communities through grantmaking across the State of New Jersey. To meet the many health needs of our state’s diverse populations, regions and communities, the NJHI program encourages collaboration across sectors to foster deep relationships committed to long-term change affording all New Jerseyans the opportunity to live the healthiest life possible. Learn more about NJHI at, and follow us on Twitter at or on Facebook at 

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the largest private foundation in New Jersey and the nation’s largest philanthropy working to improve the health and health care of all. The Foundation is striving to build a national Culture of Health that will enable all to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. RWJF has invested more than $1.2 billion in New Jersey since 1972. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at