Making a Difference

Newark man creates ‘safe haven’ for Newark Youth.

 Nyjee Coram, a 24-year-old Newark native, is the co-founder of Be-Bold afterschool program in Newark, NJ, where he advises, tutors and trains children. However, Coram was not always the community leader he is now.

 He acquainted himself with the wrong crowds, and steered away from school. His life changed when his girlfriend underwent an abortion and was administered a high dose of anesthesia, leaving her brain dead. After 30 days on a breathing tube, the hospital transferred her to hospice, where she later died. At a crossroad, Coram decided to change his life.

“The thing that made me want to keep going was because that situation was either going to make me or break me”.

Nyjee Coram

NEWARK, NJ, OCTOBER 13, 2019 NYJEE PLAYING BASKETBALL: During a small basketball game at Be-Bold after care, Nyjee Coram, co-founder, is seen sweating anxiously as he plays with his students. -Photo by Abigail Ricks/ MSU

Coram realized he was living his life wrong; him & his peers were engaged in illegal activities and he believed he wasn’t living up to his full potential. Coram says, “That situation was going to make me self destruct, indulging in things I shouldn’t be indulging in or have me change the world.”

He could have done anything, but he didn’t give up. Instead, he used his pain and became a role model for the children in his community.

With the same vision in mind, Coram, along with his co-founder, Shaquannah Floyd, created the Be Bold afterschool program. Together, they created a ‘safe haven’. 

Neighborhood Hero from Montclair State Multimedia on Vimeo

Urban areas such as Newark are synonymous for gang violence, drugs, crime and poverty. In an interview with Mayor Ras Baraka, of Newark, New Jersey , reflected on ways to decrease youth violence within the city, “We need our state and local police agencies to use some of their operational dollars to fund alternative programs like the ones we are doing in Newark to have systemic and sustainable impact.” 

A strategy for keeping youth off the streets and away from harm are after care programs. Coram and Floyd have created an environment that offers a variety of activities for children of all ages to participate in. “…karate, dance, they have a cheerleading program here, double dutch, a mentoring program, music” Coram said. They are open Monday through Friday from 3PM to 7PM. 

Tyshawn Beasley, 15, has been attending Be-Bold after care for nearly 3 years, and under Coram’s’ tutorship, feels like his life is leading to, “college, full scholarship that’s where this program is leading all of us.” 

Beasely reflects on the program stating, “I’ve gotten to experience more and learn more. Finding ways to not encounter things that would change my pathway.”

” Growing up I didn’t have anyone to steer me right, I had to go out and get it on my own, I had to figure it out on my own, which ultimately led me to the streets. “

Nyjee Coram

According to Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) in 2017 the percentage of households in Newark headed by one parent was 56%. While parents are at work, children may be exposed to the harsher realities of their city. A lack of supervision may cause these children to seek protection and comfort from individuals with questionable intentions. 

The ACNJ reported the percentage change for Licensed Child Care Centers in Newark from 2014 to 2018 was at -17%; compared to that of Essex County,  at -9%, and the state of New Jersey at 4%. With the resident population at nearly a quarter million, there are just 143 child care centers, as of 2018. There is a need for after care programs in Newark. 

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“I feel like when you’re born a young Black male, you’re already labeled a statistic, you’re labeled to go to jail, be in prison, or be in a gang, or be shot up somewhere,” Coram states. More than 60% of youth admissions to Essex County detention are from Newark, the ACNJ reports.

In 2017, young men were seven times more likely to be sent to Juvenile Detention Centers than women, says the ACNJ. Based on race, African-Americans outnumber caucasians and hispanics by 83% in total detention admissions.  These numbers are a mere reflection into the lives of young black males in Newark.

The city may be riddled with crime, violence and poverty, but centers like Be Bold serve as safe havens for children in Newark. Although Nyjee Coram was not always the young man he is today, the pain he endured will help him nurture other young men to be the men of tomorrow. 

We selected this community activist beat because we wanted the public to see that Newark is more than a ‘war zone’ filled with crime and poverty. There are many good people doing good things, making changes, and that’s what we wanted to showcase.

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