What started as a bunch of volunteers offering homework help has blossomed into one of the most valuable assets for Hoboken families.
In 1996, the nonprofit All Saints Community Service and Development Corporation started an afterschool program in the Hoboken Housing Authority’s community room. The nonsectarian agency provided a safe and supportive environment where they helped children develop both physically and mentally. Fast forward to 2014, and a 9,000-square-foot building on the west side is now home to a true educational gem.
The Jubilee Center, on the corner of Sixth and Jackson streets, handles 100 children on any given weekday. On entering the building, you can hear the sounds of kids, aged five to 12, laughing and talking. They sit at tables in a large room, ready to start their homework assignments after being picked up at school by the Jubilee Center staff. The staff also tutors children who need extra help.
“It’s an incredibly valuable service for parents who are struggling to raise their children,” says Julie Cerf, interim executive director of the program.
After the homework session, they are ushered upstairs for one of many recreational activities, including dancing, karate, and art. As I open the door to an art class filled with five-year-olds, they jump onto their seats. “We have a guest!” one girl shouts. “Sit down, we have a guest!” The walls, filled with pictures from Dr. Seuss stories, demonstrate the center’s commitment to building on school curricula. It was mid-March and schools across the country had been celebrating Dr. Seuss Day. After rec time, the kids eat dinner in the main room. Every night, the children are served meals from one of five local restaurants that donate to the center: ZYLO Tuscan Steak House, Zack’s Oak Bar & Restaurant, Black Bear Bar & Grill, Madison Bar & Grill, and the 10th & Willow Bar & Grill have been donating meals for more than six years.
The center’s services don’t end with primary-school kids. “The teen program grew out of the fact that a lot of the students, when they would graduate from our afterschool program, would want to keep coming,” Cerf says. “They needed a place to go, they needed a home.” The program, which focuses on career exploration and financial literacy, currently has 18 students who come in twice a week.
The center also offers a seven-week summer camp that helps children retain the knowledge gained from the previous school year. It features academic enrichment in the mornings followed by a full day of activities. Once a week the children are taken on field trips to local points of interest, such as Liberty Science Center or a trip to the city pool. The children are also taken on an overnight trip to Refreshing Mountain in Lancaster, Pa. “Some of the children have never been in nature,” Cerf says, “and for the first time they get to sleep outside and swim in a lake.”
Parents can also take classes. “Eat Smart, Move More” educates them on how to make healthy decisions. The program includes trips to farmers’ markets, fitness classes, and grocery stores with dieticians who teach them about healthy alternatives. This is one of the most popular programs, according to Cerf.
The center also caters to local businesses. Companies can rent rooms at the center for everything from Zumba classes to business meetings. The rentals are a valuable source of extra income, in addition to the fundraisers held throughout the year.
“The Jubilee Center is a very special place,” Cerf says. “It’s got an incredibly vibrant, positive atmosphere, and I just hope many more people will find out about it and realize the value that they have here.” —07030