Spotlight: Centers and Programs

Improving communities through schools

Montclair State University’s Service-Learning and Community Engagement program has received a $2.5 million U.S. Department of Education grant to work with two community schools in Orange, New Jersey, to provide an array of resources to students and families, including after-school programs, mentoring, parent workshops, job training and health services.

As a University-assisted community school project, the goal is to engage the resources (students, faculty, staff and alumni) of the entire University into the life and work of the community schools in order to support student and family success. The University will also partner with numerous social service agencies to prepare children at the low performing Rosa Parks Central Community School and Oakwood Community School to learn as well as to assist families and strengthen the community, says Bryan Murdock, director of Service-Learning and Community Engagement.

“The grant award is a game changer and greatly increases the likelihood that the promise of community schools will become a reality for the children, families and their school communities,” Murdock says. 

New uses for social media

Family and Child Studies professors Robert Reid and Pauline Garcia-Reid have received a one-year U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration grant to use social media to help prevent substance abuse and HIV/AIDS among African American and Hispanic young adults and the LGBTQ community in Paterson, New Jersey. The grant builds on a decade of prevention work undertaken by the Reids and Montclair State in Paterson through Project C.O.P.E.

“We hope to leverage our previous work with our current anti-drug coalition efforts to target substance abuse and HIV prevention messages to at-risk populations,” explains Reid. Volunteer peer mentors and coaches will engage the target population through C.O.P.E.’s website and social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and Tumblr in a way that the target audience feels safe getting and using sensitive information.

“If successful, we hope our work will serve as a model prevention platform for the state and federal levels,” says Reid. 

A voice for autism

The University’s Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health has received an additional $1.2 million award from the New Jersey Governor’s Council for Medical Research and Treatment of Autism to support its work coordinating statewide research and treatment efforts for the New Jersey Autism Center of Excellence (NJACE).

The enhancement follows the initial $1.5 million grant received in 2012 to establish the NJACE Coordinating Center in response to a growing epidemic of autism statewide. It now oversees a total of 16 clinical research program sites and pilot projects, says Gerard Costa, director of the Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health.

Costa’s vision for the Coordinating Center is for it to become become the “voice” for autism in New Jersey.

“What we’re learning is changing our understanding of autism and will ultimately enhance our respect and appreciation of this remarkably neurodiverse community,” he says.