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NewBridge Services Celebrates Graduates’ Resilience

Monday, June 19, 2023
NewBridge Jobs Plus graduate Ingrid Padilla with Irene Candelaria, career placement coordinator.

Graduate Ingrid Padilla with NewBridge Jobs Plus Career Placement Coordinator Irene Candelaria.

Stories of graduates’ resilience took center stage on June 15, as family members and friends feted 25 young adults who completed NewBridge Services’ alternative education and career program — in some cases many years after having left high school.

“We are here to celebrate all you have overcome and all you have accomplished,” NewBridge Services trustee Patti Lee told the NewBridge Jobs Plus graduates. “We are here to celebrate your future because we know that your best is yet to come.” Cheers erupted from the more than 100 relatives and friends attending the ceremony at the Morristown Beard School auditorium in Morris Township.

Graduate Ingrid Padilla described the emotional pain of losing her sister to a drunk driver, and of having been sexually abused by her stepfather as a child. He went to jail and Padilla left high school, working to help provide for her family. She said she suffered depression and thoughts of suicide. 

Padilla reached out to NewBridge Jobs Plus in early 2020, but the pandemic heightened her depression and she couldn’t participate. She returned to NewBridge in 2023 determined to succeed. The Morristown resident earned her New Jersey high school diploma and is studying to become a medical billing specialist. Padilla was awarded both the Alumni Appreciation Scholarship Award with a $1,000 scholarship, and the Perseverance Award.

“Tonight is a celebration of perseverance,” NewBridge Jobs Plus Program Director Amy Sheppard said. 

40 Years of NewBridge Jobs Plus
The NewBridge Jobs Plus team.

The NewBridge Jobs Plus team.

NewBridge Jobs Plus is in 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, career and college coaching, and counseling to overcome emotional challenges. Located at the NewBridge Parsippany Center, the program is free to area young adults, and NewBridge provides transportation to Morris County residents. 

The Class of 2023 came from Boonton, Denville, Dover Hackettstown, Mine Hill, Morris Plains, Morristown, Parsippany, Roxbury and Summit.

Crystal Stankevitch, a graduate of the program’s Class of 2015, shared her journey of success, and 2023 graduate Alexis Pugh captivated the crowd with a rendition of Etta James’ “At Last.”

Perseverance Personified
2015 NewBridge Jobs Plus graduate Crystal Stankevitch with 2023 graduate Sienna Wanik

NewBridge Jobs Plus alumna Crystal Stankevitch with graduate Sienna Wanic.

Morristown resident Sienna Wanic said NewBridge Jobs Plus staff have been supportive of her academic and emotional growth. “I feel like they actually care about me,” said Wanic, who left high school at age 16 and struggled with addiction for years. The 25-year-old recently celebrated two years of sobriety and plans to study to become a therapist at the County College of Morris.

Graduate Ariel Kissling told her classmates and guests that she quit high school at age 14, and struggled for years. At age 22, she left a bad relationship, knowing “I needed to make a new life for myself.” NewBridge Jobs Plus helped her earn her high school diploma and get a driver’s license, she said. 

NewBridge Jobs Plus graduate Ariel Kissling, right, with her mom.

NewBridge Jobs Plus graduate Ariel Kissling, right, with her mom.

Kissling is studying mortuary science at Eastwood College–Hackensack. She received one of two Parker Endowment Scholarship Awards that provide $2,000 scholarships. It is named in honor of NewBridge Services’ retired CEO Robert L. Parker, and funded through an endowment created by Parker’s sister, Kathleen. Kathleen Parker presented the second Parker endowment award to Ashley Lopez Cruz of Dover, who is majoring in biology at CCM. Lopez Crus also was named Associate of the Year.

Twin graduates Rafael and Ricardo Hernandez.

Rafael Hernandez of Dover, who is training to become a diesel mechanic at Universal Technical Institute in Bloomfield, received the $2,000 James Ryan Memorial Scholarship Award. The scholarship was created in honor of one of NewBridge’s founders. Hernandez’ twin brother, Ricardo, received the Spirit of 70001 Award.

Alexander Santana, right, congratulated by Kathleen Parker, who sponsors the ParkerEndowment Scholarship Award.

NewBridge Jobs Plus graduate Alexander Santana, right, congratulated by Kathleen Parker.

Alexander Santana of Morristown credited NewBridge Jobs Plus with helping him “push through” to earn his diploma and enroll at CCM studying exercise science. Santana, who aspires to become a physical education teacher, received the $2,000 Lakeland Bank Scholarship Award. “To be here today is a blessing,” the 17-year-old said.

NewBridge Jobs Plus receives funding from: the Charles Emil Thenen Foundation; Community Foundation of New Jersey; Holmes Family Foundation; John Bickford Foundation; Fran McEnerney; Kathleen Parker; Lakeland Bank; Morris County Freeholders; Morris County Human Services; Morris-Sussex-Warren Employment Training Services; and the Morris-Sussex-Warren Workforce Development Board. Special thanks goes to American Image, Morristown Beard School, and Nick Marmo.

View more photos on NewBridge’s Facebook page here.

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