Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 14
 
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
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Working Together: Collaborations Benefit Organizations, Community

Ellen Gilbert

“It happens so many times that we don’t realize we do it,” observed Princeton YWCA CEO Judith Hutton when asked about cooperation among different Princeton organizations.

“When I cite the countless examples of the ways in which all of us work together for the public good, people are invariably impressed by the degree of interaction that occurs between all of our organizations.” said Recreation Department Executive Director Jack Roberts.

In an effort to make that effort better known to the Princeton public, Mr. Roberts recently asked the heads of local institutions to provide their “best examples” of how they work together with other organizations.

“We have established relationships with a wide array of community organizations and local groups to help create unique programming opportunities for Princeton residents,” said Director Leslie Burger describing Princeton Public Library collaborations.

Current library partnerships include, according to Ms. Burger, working with the Arts Council of Princeton; partnering with SCORE to provide business counseling services; working with the Latin American Task Force to offer citizenship classes and the Ask-A-Lawyer program; partnering with Not in Our Town to produce lectures and discussions about race-related issues; and working with Corner House to sponsor Friday night teen programs.

The library’s Thinking Allowed series, which brings Princeton University Press (PUP) authors to the library to discuss their recently published books, is based on a partnership between the Library and PUP. McCarter Live at the Library is a long-standing collaboration that brings actors, directors, and playwrights to the library for intimate previews of upcoming McCarter productions.

Seniors

Among its collaborations with the Princeton Public Library, said Princeton Senior Resource Center (PSRC) Executive Director Susan Hoskins, is a “library books at home” program in which PSRC HomeFriends volunteers visit and take library books to home-based seniors and people with disabilities. In addition, said Ms. Hoskins, “The library hosts many of the Engaged Retirement and Encore Career programs for PSRC, which introduces library patrons to its programs (without going to a senior center) and expands library programming. The center also does a workshop on caregiver and senior resources at the library. The children’s librarian works with the GrandPals volunteers who are seniors who read with kindergarteners in the Regional Schools.”

“The Senior Resource Center and the Arts Council collaborate on a Senior Community Art Show, and the center, Princeton HealthCare and the Health Department collaborate on the health fair, flu shots, and health education at the center, which is also a partner agency in Partners in Caring, a collaborative of six agencies working together to support older adults who are aging in place, with a focus on low and moderate income people.”

Adolescent Health

“HiTOPS interacts with community partners in many ways,” said Executive Director Elizabeth Casparian of the non-profit that seeks to promote adolescent health and well-being.

For starters, she described how HiTOPS staff work with Corner House youth groups to provide sexual health information and risk reduction strategies to at-risk youth populations. This will take the form of workshops, question and answer sessions, and tours of the HiTOPS health center.

Other multi-agency efforts include after-school programming for middle school youth through “HiTOPS at the Library”; collaborating with Princeton Public Library on their LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Queer) Film Festival and World AIDS Day Events; support of the Princeton YWCA’s Stand Against Racism program; and the Y’s mother-daughter puberty workshops.

In addition, reported Ms. Casparian, “HiTOPS provides two classes per year to sixth-through twelfth-graders in the Princeton Regional Schools on topics such as bullying, cyber-bullying, sexual harassment, postponing sexual involvement, pregnancy prevention, STD (sexually transmitted diseases) risk reduction, dating violence and date rape prevention, health and unhealthy relationships. HiTOPS staff members also attend and participate in Parent Teacher Organization meetings at John Witherspoon Middle School and Princeton High School.”

“HiTOPS clinical staff provides flu shots for Corner House staff,” continued Ms. Casparian, and, she reported, HiTOPS is actively involved with the Princeton Youth Concerns Committee and Communiversity.

“Quid Pro Quo”

Near the top of Mr. Roberts’s list of cooperative ventures is the “quid pro quo” arrangement under which district schools enjoy the use of municipal fields, while Recreation Department programs get to use school gyms. “The PRS Administration works actively with us to share resources relating to field and gym space for athletic events. Neither one could do without the other,” Mr. Roberts observed.

The Department’s Day Camp Garden Plots partnership with Sustainable Princeton and other environmental organizations provides a garden plot planting program for its summer day camp, and collaborating with the YWCA, allows the the department to offer specialized swim instruction and exercise programs at its Community Park Pool. Another mutually beneficial arrangement is one under which PRD provides courts for Princeton Tennis, which offers instructional classes.

A remarkably long-lived arrangement is the Princeton University-Dillon Youth Basketball League, noted Mr. Roberts. “For 40 years, Princeton University has provided its Dillon Gym Facility for the basic basketball program in town. University students coach the kids which provides for a different dynamic than having parents coach their children.”

YWCA/YMCA

Ms. Hutton reported that the work of the YWCA (“eliminating racism, empowering women”) includes numerous collaborations. “Last year the library started to provide computer classes for our ESL (English as a second language) students,” she said. “McCarter Theatre donated tickets to some shows for our students, the Junior League provided science instruction for our pre-school, and the Arts Council made ceramics for our auction that raised money for our Bates Scholarship Fund. And, we have been working cooperatively with the Princeton Family YMCA to reduce competition under the same roof all while supporting each other’s unique mission.” 

Recently, the YMCA and YWCA were jointly selected by the KaBoom! Foundation to receive a play space for school-age children. With a grant from the F.I.S.H. Foundation and financial support from other local individuals, businesses, and organizations, 300 local volunteers (including over 100 representatives from Community House of Princeton) constructed the playground on a Y field in one day last fall.

“Y Scholars,” a new initiative launched by the YMCA in partnership with Community House After School Academy and Committed and Faithful Princetonians, is an extracurricular educational and team mentoring program that targets minority youth in the fifth through 12th grades. It features leadership training, career exploration, character and values development, service learning opportunities, and support for the college application process. YMCA staff delivers the program along with “volunteer adult role models who encourage participants to aspire to high standards, excel in school and attend college to achieve their goals.”

Fit by Five/YMCA@PLAY! is a supplementary health and wellness education program designed to combat childhood obesity targeting children ages two- to 12-year-olds living in the Princeton region, with a special focus on children from under-served communities. With two programs created to serve specific age groups (Fit by Five for preschoolers and YMCA@PLAY! for elementary school students), YMCA staff travel to partnering organizations to deliver the program at their respective locations at no cost to the participants.

Partnerships

“The Princeton Young Achievers’ (PYA) after school program thrives with productive community partnerships,” reported Executive Director Pam Elmi.

“Over 25 students from Princeton University, Princeton Theological Seminary, and Rider University tutor at our learning centers each week and PYA regularly schedules ‘read alouds’ with the Princeton Public Library youth librarians, as well as with Emma the Reading Dog.”

“We look forward to ‘Creative Fridays’ and art lessons with the Arts Council of Princeton every week (come to our art show in the Valley Road Building on June 11 at 5 p.m.), and Princeton Regional Schools provide us with curriculum guidance and teacher training,”

“We partner on joint parent night events, striving to close the minority achievement gap together, and Isles of Trenton assists us with building community gardens in Princeton’s public housing neighborhoods,” continued Ms. Elmi. “PYA and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mercer County also work together, providing direct mentor placements into families that need them, and PYA also refers its graduating fifth graders to the Springboard, Community House, and YMCA tutoring programs for older children.”

Big Picture

“In my travels throughout this town, there are occasions when I find disgruntled citizens who cry out about perceived duplication, competition, overlapping of programs and services,” observed Mr. Roberts. “In my view, they are uninformed.”

If anything, it was difficult for organizational leaders to limit their examples. “We can name many more,” said Ms. Elmi. “I will be embellishing on my list,” noted Mr. Roberts. “I’m sure I can think of others,” said Ms. Burger. “There are probably more …” added Ms. Hoskins.

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