On September 28th, Schools That Can Newark proudly hosted the Third Annual Design Day Challenge & Celebration. Over the course of the day, middle schoolers, teachers, and corporate volunteers joined forces to solve a real-world problem. This year, the challenge came from Newark Community Economic Development Corporation (NCEDC) to redesign Washington Park. This historic park is centrally located in Newark, surrounded by important cultural, educational, and for-profit institutions.

NCEDC, in partnership with the Friends of Washington Park organization and other major stakeholders around the Park, are looking to redevelop it to better reflect the city’s diversity, history, culture, and community. Though the City and Friends of Washington Park have solicited feedback and ideas from the broader community in recent years, they never asked youth for their input, and thus were specifically looking to gain ideas and insight from Newark’s youth into what the Park should be and how it can engage families. Our challenge was their opportunity to do just that.

Once again, I was amazed by the creativity and brilliance of our students. They introduced new ideas that could be wonderful additions to the redevelopment of Washington Park, proving again that Newark’s youngest residents are vital to the planning process for our city. I can’t wait to see some of these ideas come to fruition in the Park in the future!”

– Erin Sweeney, Executive Director of STC Newark

First, teams tackled some field research…

Then, designing began!

“This was my first time participating in Design Day and it was amazing. The talent and willingness to work together was amazing.” – Kinshema Hughes, teacher

“[The] Design Day Challenge is a fantastic way for my students to collaborate on a real situation that the city of Newark faces.” – Michelle Picard

We wrapped the day with students presenting their ideas, which allowed them to engage in real-world learning that married concepts from STEM, art, history, and the city around them.

“An excellent opportunity for our youth to be involved in team building, creative thinking, and contributing to Newark’s future.” – Tony Bienert, Hollister Construction

Thank you to our brilliant students and community for joining us! We’d also love to thank Newark Museum, Newark Community Economic Development Corporation, NJIT — College of Architecture & Design, Edison Properties Newark Foundation, BuildPro, Shufro Rose & Co., Hollister Construction Services, RBH Group, The Alpert Group, Wells Fargo, Edie Hunt, and everyone who came out and celebrated with us.

“Design Day is one just one example of the impact our students can have on the city of Newark and why their ideas and opinions are valuable.  Each design was so thoughtful, considerate of the needs of the community, and inventive. If we can continue to make an effort to seek out ideas from young people, there is no limit to what the City of Newark can accomplish.”

-Tiffany Jackson, Manager of School Programs for STC Newark

Is it too early to say we’re already looking forward to next year’s Design Day? If you’re eager to participate, check out https://www.facebook.com/schoolsthatcannewark/ for updates, or email esweeney@schoolsthatcan.org.