Success Stories

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The experiences of two students in our program underscore its impact:

Brian (names have been changed for privacy) is a 14 year old eighth grader, challenged with autism, who originally participated in our programming as a younger student (most of the young people in our Children’s Program are in grades K-6); he re-entered the program when he needed Supplemental Educational Services (SES). He requires continuous help as his condition causes him to have difficulty retaining information. Although aware of his disabilities, he is very determined and willing to work hard to succeed. Brian particularly benefits from the supportive, non-threatening environment our program provides.

Brian’s math grades were suffering considerably, so we provided him with SES small group instruction conducted by a certified teacher with a background in special education. Additionally, a volunteer graduate student studying Special Education and Literacy at Montclair State University helped him with individual tutoring two days per week. Through these interventions, Brian’s math scores improved significantly.

Brian was also particularly drawn to our arts programming. Initially shy and reserved, Brian began singing in our arts workshops, where he would become animated and engaged. He first performed publicly as part of “If I Were a King,” our Martin Luther King Day event that featured student music, theater, and dance presentations and was attended by families and community members. Brian performed a rousing rendition of “This Little Light of Mine” – which received a standing ovation from the audience.

Another student, Maria, is 7-year-old second grader who came to us with severe learning delays and struggled significantly with language arts skills. She lives in public housing with her grandmother, who only speaks Spanish (no English is spoken in their home). When first entering our program, Maria could not write her own name or construct simple sentences – and was not even able to complete the pre-test we use to determine a student’s degree of proficiency in language arts for their grade level.

To help her, we found and engaged a special education teacher who designed a program for Maria, helped her individually, and charted her progress over several months. Realizing she is a tactile learner who enjoys working on creative and art projects, the teacher used methods that employed visual aids (photographs and pictures), posted exercises and worksheets on the wall (in addition to the table), and wrote sentences using different colored crayons and markers. This strategy worked – and Maria’s reading and writing skills vastly improved – she now understands phonics and is creating written sentences on her own.

Another instructor in our program, who is English/Spanish bilingual, communicated with Maria’s Spanish-speaking grandmother to help her understand the interventions we were providing and updating her on Maria’s progress. Maria also participates in our other after school and summer programming, and her grandmother has started to attend events (such as children’s music and theater performances) that are open to family members.