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NJIT welcomed several special guests to campus Aug. 7 for a showcase representing the culmination of the Ras Baraka Coding Institute (BCI) at NJIT, part of the Newark Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). The program offers participants work experience with a summer income while teaching them valuable employment skills. More than 3,000 students take part every year, 40 of whom have spent this summer at the university immersed in either coding or architecture (the latter through NJIT’s Newark Beautification Community Gardens Initiative). NJIT has been involved with SYEP for the past four years.

Senator Cory Booker and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka were on hand to hear presentations by the students as well as engage in a “fireside chat” with them, discussing their own paths to success. Also visiting was Dexter Goei, CEO of broadband communications and video services provider Altice, one of many SYEP funders.

(Left to right) Senator Cory Booker, Altice CEO Dexter Goei, NJIT President Joel Bloom and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka

“It’s great to be here … to see what you all are doing and creating,” remarked Sen. Booker, pointing out the importance of both investing in the nation’s STEM education and preparing students for a 21st-century workforce.

BCI, led by Osama Eljabiri, senior university lecturer and capstone program director, Ying Wu College of Computing (YWCC), follows the Real World Connections (RWC) model of education. RWC is powered by a “learning by doing,” project-based approach that is complemented by coaching and mentorship and real-world opportunities.

Managed by NJIT’s Career Development Services in partnership with SYEP, the institute is housed in the computer science department at YWCC. Newark residents ages 16 to 18 who are accepted into the program have access to four real-world coding project tracks: Android apps development, advanced web development, game development and programming around solving cyber crimes.

“These types of experiences can be eye-opening for young men and women, because they expose them to possible tracks of future employment that are abundant and also quite lucrative. That’s important, because our global economy is driven by technology,” said NJIT President Joel Bloom. “This is true of every industry you can imagine, and a critical part of what we do at NJIT is prepare students for the vast opportunities that await graduates with a technological skill set.”

At the chat’s conclusion, the students received words of wisdom from all three guests. Sen. Booker urged them to have definiteness of purpose and be goal-oriented. Goei advised them to take risks and be passionate about their work. And Mayor Baraka encouraged them to start today on their chosen career paths.

Another Special Visit

New Jersey Congressman Donald Payne was also at NJIT Aug. 7 to host the seminar “Building Your International Business” in the university’s Agile Strategy Lab. The event, a joint effort between Congressman Payne’s office and the New Jersey Department of Commerce, was designed to help attendees sharpen their knowledge of exporting and gain valuable skills to enhance their overseas business activities. Featured speakers included many international trade practitioners who are members of the New Jersey District Export Council, “a volunteer group of private-sector individuals appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to provide mentoring on exporting U.S. goods and services.”

NJ Congressman Donald Payne and Joel Bloom in the Agile Strategy Lab inside the Central King Building

“I’m very happy the Congressman has brought this event to NJIT, for two reasons,” offered Dr. Bloom. “First, NJIT prides itself on being an engine for economic development and partnership with industry in ways that are uncommon at most institutions of higher education. Second, international trade presents an opportunity for domestic industries to grow their revenues and foster economic expansion. As a university with a significant international population, particularly at the graduate level, and with an alumni base that holds positions of leadership in many of the world’s most important multinational corporations, NJIT is well aware that we are living in a truly global economy. … Universities like NJIT must prepare the workforce that is able to adapt to a multitude of global cultures, perspectives and market factors.”