Last fall, the Newark Public School (NPS) district was selected as one of 35 awardees of the “Promoting Adolescent Health through School-Based HIV Prevention” grants program available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The district was awarded $350,000.

Newark will use the award money to carry out the “Newark Health and Wellness Project,” which seeks to utilize a multi-component, multi-level effort to support youth in Newark reaching adulthood in the healthiest possible way. NPS will conduct school-based surveillance of health risk behaviors by administering the Youth Risk Behavior Surveys and School Profiles. The survey will help the City of Newark and the school district identify current health and safety habits so improvements can be made to district policies and procedures. NPS will also implement effective sexual health education and services to at-risk middle school and high school students. Over the five-year grant period, the project will impact approximately 34,200 students. Each year, priority schools will be selected to implement the proposed programs in the project.

Newark’s Health and Wellness Project efforts are guided by the following goals:

  • Provide high-quality, developmentally appropriate sexual health education to all middle grade (grades 6-8) and high school students (grades 9-12) in the district.
  • Increase student access to sexual health services by improving the student referral process and promoting services that exist.
  • Promote safe and secure environments in schools by creating Gay Straight Alliances at all high schools (grades 9-12) in the district.

A Grant Proposal on Deadline Newark Public Schools only had three weeks to prepare the grant application — from the date the request for proposals was announced until the submission deadline.

With such a tight deadline, school district officials knew that they did not have the capacity to get everything in order without some outside help.

Fortunately, the NJSBA Grants Support Program team was there to assist.

After an exploratory call with a grants development consultant, NPS elected to move forward with the proposal and within a few days hired a grant writer through the NJSBA Grants Support Program.

As part of the package, NPS secured the added benefit of a project development consultant. Together, these individuals worked in lockstep with NPS staff — gathering data to establish a need for support, brainstorming programming ideas, ensuring that all elements required by the funder were addressed within the project design, and actually drafting the various proposal documentation. Throughout the process, the NJSBA Grants Support team was there to answer questions, make sure nothing was forgotten, and coach NPS through the navigation and submission process.

Now that the grant has been awarded the real work begins. The expected outcomes of the project include increased student knowledge through sexual health education, the capacity to provide sexual health services, and the creation of safe and supportive environments in schools for all students. This will provide students with the tools and resources needed to make informed decisions and reduce student behaviors that contribute to HIV infection, other sexually transmitted diseases, and adolescent pregnancy/parenthood. NPS will also be creating a Health Advisory Committee featuring pivotal stakeholders who will provide input and expertise to ensure that project outcomes become a reality. To that end, the implementation of the Newark Health and Wellness Project will mean healthier, more productive lives for Newark’s young people, as well as improved learning in the classroom.

To learn more about how the NJSBA Grant Support Program can be leveraged to support your district’s grant efforts, contact Lou Schimenti.

Louis Schimenti is NJSBA products and services specialist.