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NewBridge JobsPlus Helps Young Adults Overcome Challenges

Friday, June 14, 2024
Brittany Ortiz and her mother, a family friend and her brother at the NewBridge JobsPlus graduation.

Brittany Ortiz celebrates her graduation from NewBridge JobsPlus with her mom, brother, and a family friend.

A persistent, undiagnosed illness last winter caused Brittany Ortiz to miss too many days to graduate from Morristown High School. “I was feeling really low about how I got into this situation. What would I do with my life if I didn’t have my diploma, if I couldn’t start college?” Ortiz said. The 17-year-old enrolled in NewBridge JobsPlus in January and earned her high school diploma within three months.

Ortiz praised NewBridge Services’ alternative education and jobs program at a graduation ceremony June 13 honoring the 27 members of the Class of 2024. “Let us never forget the role NewBridge has played in shaping our futures. NewBridge believed in us when others of us may have doubted,” she said.

NewBridge JobsPlus just completed its 40th year of helping young adults turn their lives around, and is the longest-running program of its kind in Morris County. Participants learn at their own pace and receive academic support, life and professional skills training, and career and college coaching. Mental health counseling is also available. The program is free to area young adults, and NewBridge provides transportation to Morris County residents. 

Alumni’s Sage Advice

More than 100 family members and friends attended the commencement held at Morristown Beard School. Some of the best advice imparted came from three alumni who continue to build fulfilling lives.

“I want you to look fear directly in the face and tell it you are not afraid,” said 2016 NewBridge JobsPlus alumna Abbey Perl, who went on to start a nonprofit, earn a master’s degree and land a dream job in the medical cannabis industry.

“Your journey might take unexpected turns and success may not always come easily but let us remember that greatness lies not in the absence of failure but in our ability to rise each time we fall,” said 2013 graduate Michelle Santos, owner of El Tucán restaurant in Hackettstown.

2017 graduate Airiana Collins called NewBridge JobsPlus a “beacon of hope.” She enrolled at age 16, soon after becoming pregnant. What in the moment seemed a heartrending turn in her life became a blessing. Her daughter, Eliana, now 6, “made me realize what could have broke me made me stronger,” she said. Collins, an oral and maxillofacial surgery assistant, is pursuing a career in nursing.

‘She is Thriving.’

NewBridge JobsPlus graduate Madyson Adonis, who earned her high school diploma, is surrounded by six  family members.

Madyson Adonis and her family celebrate at the NewBridge JobsPlus commencement.

NewBridge JobsPlus Director Amy Sheppard took a moment early in the ceremony to remember Zachary Keller, who died in January. “Let us carry his memory forward…he will always be part of our collective story at NewBridge JobsPlus.”  His mother and aunt sat in a front row.

Sixteen-year-old Madyson Adonis flashed a wide smile as she received the $1,000 Lakeland Bank Scholarship Award and later was named NewBridge JobsPlus Associate of the Year. She had been an honor student at Roxbury High School, but crippling anxiety made it difficult to attend. “I was struggling to even walk in the building,” Adonis said. Enrolling at NewBridge JobsPlus last October, she almost immediately completed the coursework but chose to stay on.

“Everyone was warm and welcoming,” she said. “My first impression was, this place is cool. It’s cozy.” Adonis earned her high school diploma in January and is enrolled at the County College of Morris studying animation, her passion.

“What NewBridge gave her — and gave us — is life-changing,” said Adonis’ mother, Alyssa. “She has come out of shell. She’s happy and she is thriving.”  

Scholarships and Honors

Ortiz, who will study criminal justice at CCM, received the $1,500 James Ryan Memorial Scholarship award. NewBridge Board of Trustees President Debbie King handed out the award named for her father, one of the nonprofit’s founders.

Madison Citron and Brenna Mulhearn each received a $1,500 Parker Endowment Scholarship. Kathy Parker established the endowment in honor of her brother, Robert Parker, who led NewBridge for 28 years before retiring in 2020. 

The $1,000 Alumni Appreciation Scholarship, provided by former NewBridge trustee Fran McEnerney, was awarded to Zachariah Palen, who is training to become an auto mechanic at Universal Technical Institute.

Mother Alicia Capozzi is proud of her teenagers Jayden and Dominick Truglia for turning their lives around with help from NewBridge JobsPlus.

Jayden and Dominick Truglia have made their mom, Alicia Capozzi, very proud.

The Perseverance Award went to Jacob Piccione, while Jayden Truglia took home the Spirit of 70001 Award. (NewBridge JobsPlus began in 1983 as Project 70001. ) Truglia, 17, and her 19-year-old brother, Dominick, both turned their lives around with the support of NewBridge JobsPlus, their mother, Alicia Capozzi said. The family moved from Florida to East Hanover last fall for a fresh start.

“Dominick and Jayden are confident, they’re happier. They are speaking about their futures and careers and developed a relationship with your staff that is incredible,” Capozzi wrote to Sheppard.

“I learned patience, and that if you’re going down the wrong path, you’ve got to flip it around,” Dominick Truglia said. 

Reversing Regret

Brothers Andy and Gerardo Giron Diaz at NewBridge JobsPlus graduation. They are grateful to have their high school diplomas.

Andy and Gerardo Giron Diaz are happy they earned their high school diplomas with help from NewBridge JobsPlus.

Morristown brothers Gerardo and Andy Giron Diaz regretted not having gotten their high school diplomas, and together enrolled in NewBridge JobsPlus at the suggestion of their cousin, who’d gone through the program. 

“I liked the vibe. I felt welcome and didn’t mind coming every day,” said Andy Giron, 18, who left Morristown High School during his sophomore year. Gerardo Giron, 21, found the academics difficult at first, having been out of school years by then, “but I got of one-on-one help and I learned it,” he said. Both work full time and plan to pursue their education.

NewBridge JobsPlus receives funding from: Morris-Sussex-Warren Employment & Training Services; the Morris-Sussex-Warren Workforce Development Board; Lakeland Bank; Morris County Human Services; Jostens; Fran McEnerney; Kathleen Parker; and Robert Parker. Special thanks to Nick Marmo and Morristown Beard School, and Debbie Neff and John Paragian at American Image T-shirts.

View more photos on NewBridge’s Facebook page here.


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