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Teens Seize Second Chance and Earn High School Diplomas

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

BOONTON, NJ – June 14, 2013 – Fifty-five teenagers who left high school without graduating donned caps and gowns last night to celebrate earning their state-issued diplomas through NewBridge Jobs Plus, an alternative education program.

“This was one of the best life experiences I could have asked for,’’ 16-year-old Jillian Piotrowski told her fellow graduates and the more than 150 relatives and friends gathered at the Elks Lodge.

Feeling overwhelmed at Mount Olive High School, Piotrowski enrolled in NewBridge Jobs Plus in March – and flourished.

“Everything in my life became better. I felt supported, and I started making better decisions,’’ said Piotrowski, who will attend the County College of Morris in the fall and pursue a career in social work.

Since its inception in 1983, NewBridge Jobs Plus has helped well over 1,000 young adults succeed, with many going on to college and technical schools. The program is free to residents of Morris, Sussex and Warren counties between the ages of 16 and 21 and includes free transportation in Morris County.

This year’s graduates hail from Boonton, Butler, Dover, Hackettstown, Hopatcong, Jefferson, Kinnelon, Lincoln Park, Montville, Morris Plains, Morristown, Mount Olive, Parsippany, Paterson, and Pequannock.

Christopher Romero, 18, faced the prospect of repeating his junior year at Randolph High School last fall. “I had friends who had already graduated and were starting jobs or going to college, and I didn’t want to be there anymore. “I wanted to start my life.’’

Romero found it easier to learn in NewBridge’s small classroom setting, with one-on-one help from instructors. The NewBridge Jobs Plus staff also helped him apply to the Universal Technical Institute, a national automotive school in Exton, Pa.

“I’m grateful I have a chance to expand my education and become a mechanic like my father, my uncle and my cousin,’’ Romero said.

Flo Rivera was short credits to graduate from Dover High School because she missed too many days of classes. At her guidance counselor’s suggestion, Rivera enrolled at NewBridge Jobs Plus, which provided transportation to and from school. Rivera not only earned her high school diploma, but found career path in culinary arts.

“The instructors care about us, and they make us feel important,’’ she said. “All that guidance is amazing.’’ Rivera said her success healed a rift between her and her mother, Floridalma Lobos, who watched her 17-year-old daughter graduate in a special dress she bought for her. “My mom is proud of me. I can’t tell you how happy I feel!’’

NewBridge instructors helped Jillian Piotrowski get her first job by teaching her how to write a resume, which she attached to her job application at a Wendy’s restaurant. “They told me I got the job because of that!’’ she said.

Her mother could not be prouder. Sharon Piotrowski wiped away tears as she snapped photos of her daughter winning two awards. “It’s been a long road, but she is doing amazing,’’ she said. “What they do here for kids who can’t find their way in regular schools is unbelievable.’’

NewBridge Jobs Plus receives funding from: the Morris-Sussex-Warren Workforce Investment Board, the Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the Provident Bank Foundation, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, the United Way of Northern New Jersey, the F.M. Kirby Foundation, the John Bickford Foundation, the Charles Emil Thenen Foundation, Boiling Springs Savings Bank, and the First Presbyterian Church of Boonton, as well as community residents. For information on NewBridge Jobs Plus, call (973) 335-0666.


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