From Paterson to Panama: Fundholder Opens a World of Opportunity

July 19, 2019

It all started with a fundholder at the Community Foundation of New Jersey who had a passion for providing summer jobs for young people.

Back in 2010, this fundholder – who likes to remain anonymous – told us that he wanted to turn this passion into effective philanthropy.

We got to work – researching what goes into a successful summer job program, getting a handle on the available programs in the area he cared about (northern New Jersey), speaking with employers and employees, conducting site visits, and ultimately recommending a series of options based on our research and benchmarking.

Every summer since, the fundholder has supported summer job programs at a half dozen organizations such as City Green in Clifton. Hundreds of young people have held summer jobs as a result of this fundholder’s generosity.

One of these young people, Jayson Velazquez, turned his 2016 summer internship at City Green – where he gained firsthand knowledge and experience in urban farming and sustainable agriculture – into a 2018 summer job at City Green.

Jayson was a Crew Leader for City Green’s Growing Strong Farm & Markets, deepening his knowledge and passion for equitable access to healthy food and ecologically sustainable communities. Jayson led a team of four high school interns through daily harvesting and farming tasks, and even supervised the student-run farmer’s markets. In support of the student employees’ professional and educational development, Jayson led an interactive and informative workshop that included dialogue about employment, education, and service opportunities available post-high school

But Jayson didn’t stop there.

This past May, Jayson took what he learned through his summer jobs at City Green all the way to Panama.

As Jayson explains, the trip “allowed me to explore rural and urban agriculture, rural and urban development, and economic drivers in the food, fiber, and fuel industries all through the lens of diversity and social justice.”

Calling the experience “transformational”, Jayson recalls one of the trip’s many highlights:

I was able to tour a 117-hectare pineapple farm. This large pineapple farm started in 1977 by Edna Vergara who began her agricultural journey with one hectare of land and a vision that would change the landscape of Panamanian agriculture forever. During the next 25 years, Edna organized and grew the business along with 55 local growers, which would go on to construct the first pineapple export facility in Panamá. Edna’s creation would go on to attract multinational companies and spurn a movement that has made Panamá one of the top pineapple producers in Central America!

We at the Community Foundation of New Jersey could not be more proud of Jayson or the fundholder on whose behalf we had the pleasure of developing and executing on this effective philanthropic program.

The peace of mind that comes with the structure and stability of a summer job, particularly for at-risk youth and their families, is hard to measure.  But we know that thanks to this fundholder’s idea and willingness to act, hundreds of young New Jerseyans will have gained new skills and gotten a preview of the professional possibilities that await them. And a philanthropic legacy is born.

To support a summer job program in your community – or to maximize the impact of your giving – call us at 973-267-5533.