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University Americorps volunteers teaching music class to kids.

Underserved Schools Benefit from Grant

Photo: With grant support, University AmeriCorps volunteers teach in two community schools in Orange.

With the support of a $2.5 million, five-year U.S. Department of Education grant — the first of its kind awarded in New Jersey — Montclair State has been making a difference in the lives of public school students and their families participating in the University-Assisted Full-Service Community School Initiative. 

Now in its third year, the grant promotes student success and community engagement in two underserved schools in Orange, New Jersey participating in the Initiative.

According to Bryan Murdock, the grant’s principal investigator and director of Montclair State’s Center for Community Engagement, the project has been highly successful in promoting student success and community engagement.

“The project has served 1,100 — nearly 100 percent — of the students in each of the schools through in-class support through our AmeriCorps program, after-school through our service-learning and Bonner Leader program, as well as additional grant programs providing after-school arts programs and homework help,” he says.

While more than 60 Montclair State AmeriCorps members, Bonner Leaders, service-learning students and interns take part in the project
each year, Drew University students have also recently become engaged in the project.

The project has served 1,100 – nearly 100 percent – of the students in each of the schools…

Bryan Murdock

Murdock says students are exceptionally committed to the project’s success. A Montclair State AmeriCorps member at Forest Street School obtained a grant from Lowes for a washer and dryer for the school, to help families without access to laundry facilities. “Research indicates that children often miss school for lack of clean clothes, so the new washer and dryer are intended to increase attendance,” says Murdock.

“We have so much going on in the project,” says Murdock, who notes that since 2014 the program has significantly increased the number of school day, after-school and summer programs and services in the participating schools, which have seen a notable boost in average student grades.

The schools have also been transformed into true community centers that have enrolled hundreds of parents and community members in a number of adult education, parenting and job-training workshops.

Murdock is especially excited about new health clinics that have been established in each school that offer health and wellness exams, eye exams, hearing screenings, dental check-ups and behavioral health services as well as family nutrition education.

“Recently, through the Helen Keller Foundation, the clinic at Rosa Parks Community School not only gave eye exams to all 255 students in grades 4-7 at the school, but it will also provide glasses to 96 students,” Murdock explains.