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Partnering for Change: A Decade of SummerPlus Arts Enrichment in Newark

Newark, NJ - September 15, 2022 - The summer of 2022 commemorated ten successful years of Arts Ed Newark (formerly Newark Arts Education Roundtable) partnering with Newark Board of Education’s (NBOE) Office of Expanded Learning Time (ELT) and Victoria Foundation in providing meaningful summer arts enrichment during SummerPlus, serving nearly 20,000 Newark students with the city's free summer learning program.

Piloted in 2013 at Camden Street School as “Project Plus,” the program originally served 250 students with the help of funding from Victoria Foundation and Prudential Foundation, with the intention of increasing summer school attendance. Project Plus provided students with morning academic programs, followed by enrichment activities led by AEN partners Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey, Project USE and New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC).

The following year (and every year since) Arts Ed Newark has effectively lobbied and secured funding for the continuation and inevitable growth of the program now called SummerPlus. In its tenth year, the program served nearly 2,000 students bringing 7 arts organizations across 15 school sites over five weeks. Each day students receive three hours of academic enrichment in the morning, followed by two additional enrichments in the afternoon. Afternoon enrichments, including the arts, were connected to the morning curriculum and the overall summer themes designed by each site. The summer culminated with performances, project displays and carnival activities for families to attend.

Thanks to this partnership with Newark Board of Education and the generosity of Victoria Foundation over the decade-long initiative, students in Newark have been introduced to: mosaic-making, improv, Latin Dance, African Drumming, puppetry, hip-hop and many more varied art forms and media. As well, arts programs with footholds in other parts of the state and city have found a Newark audience including: Changing Perceptions Theatre, Arts Horizons, Yogi Berra Museum, and Education Arts Team.

“This important partnership is one of the reasons our collective work is so unique and effective,” says Lauren Meehan, Director of Arts Ed Newark. “Because AEN and ELT united behind-the-scenes, we were able to combine our efforts and networks for the greater good of Newark’s youth, exposing them to rich summer arts experiences they are entitled to, even with organizational and staff changes over the last decade, and a build a meaningful relationship filled with trust, collaboration, and love.” Summer learning loss, which more heavily impacts low-income youth, as well as learning loss writ-large due to the pandemic, is recognized as a factor in widening the achievement gap.

The past decade of SummerPlus Arts Enrichment can also boast another achievement: because AEN measures Social Emotional Learning growth/trajectory each year, the collective now has nearly ten years of data on the actual impact of this partnership on Newark’s young people, consistently revealing that students who participated in SummerPlus arts programming, show overall positive growth in attitude toward student confidence, interest in trying new experiences, an increase in cultural competency, empathy and perseverance.

This National Arts in Education week, AEN highlights this necessary and important work which supports the social emotional learning of students and helps create more trauma informed and healing centered spaces for everyone, at a time when they need it the most. It is partnerships like these and continued support and collaboration from organizations like NBOE, AEN, and Victoria Foundation that allow consistent, intentional, high-quality arts education for Newark students. This is all a culmination of a decade of partnering, learning, and planning across sectors and is one tremendous example of how collective impact can create change.

About Arts Ed Newark: Arts Ed Newark is an alliance supporting collaboration in the community, enabling its 100+ partners to reach more children– over 40,000 – with high-quality arts programming. We are sector-builders and connectors, elevating the field as a whole by helping youth-serving organizations collectively bring access to arts education in Newark, New Jersey, to scale. Our network builds organizations’ capacity, helps them to navigate systems, and capture their impact so that they can focus on what they do best – engage our children in the wonder of the arts. We live under the umbrella of Newark Arts. Learn more at:

About Newark Board of Education: With 65 schools and a student population of nearly 38,000 NBOE is the largest and one of the oldest school systems in NJ. Over the next decade the district looks to integrate Social Emotional Learning into the instructional program through curriculum design and professional development; continue to build capacity to include culturally responsive content knowledge and effective classroom practices in all content areas; and expand district training in trauma-informed care and healing centered engagement. Learn more at:

About Victoria Foundation: Founded in 1924, Victoria Foundation is a private foundation based in Newark, New Jersey, with an endowment of $320 million. For the past 55 years, Victoria Foundation has focused most of its resources on children and families living in Newark, New Jersey, with grants totaling $300 million. The foundation recently announced a new framework that will direct its grantmaking, investments and relationships on addressing systemic causes of generational poverty in Newark by focusing on strengthening community power, fostering economic justice, and promoting youth self-determination. Learn more at:


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