Non Profit Spotlight: Project Readiness | The Denville Moms

Welcome to The Denville Moms Local Nonprofit Spotlight Series!

Jen Scarpati and Annie Peters founded Project Readiness in 2018.

As our fifth Non Profit Organization, we are excited to introduce you to Project Readiness. Project Readiness is a 501 (c)(3) organization whose mission is to enable academic success for all of New Jersey’s children, regardless of income level.  New Jersey, like many states, has municipalities in which children of means attend school alongside children at an economic disadvantage.  Data collected by organizations such as the United Way show that this economic disadvantage often translates into an academic disadvantage.  To that end, a student’s family income is one of the most prominent predictors of that student’s SAT score. Also, children of homes with less income are less likely to pursue higher education. 

Project Readiness has the mission of providing students with a year’s complement of age-appropriate school supplies and a new backpack. That student is equipped for the coming academic year with both tangible supplies, and the knowledge that a sponsor believed in their potential enough to make a monetary investment in their schooling.  

 

What is your nonprofit called and how long have you been established?

We are Project Readiness, and although we’ve been doing this work for the past two years, we’ve finally made it official with a name and a 501(c)(3) registration!   

 

What is your mission? 

Our mission is to enable academic success for all of New Jersey’s children, regardless of income level.  New Jersey, like many states, has municipalities in which children of means attend school alongside children at an economic disadvantage.  Data collected by organizations such as the United Way show that this economic disadvantage often translates into an academic disadvantage.  To that end, a student’s family income is one of the most prominent predictors of that student’s SAT score. Also, children of homes with less income are less likely to pursue higher education.  Project Readiness has the mission of providing students with a year’s complement of age-appropriate school supplies and a new backpack. That student is equipped for the coming academic year with both tangible supplies, and the knowledge that a sponsor believed in their potential enough to make a monetary investment in their schooling.  

 

Who does your organization serve?

Currently, our organization serves those children living in Morris County either beneath the poverty line (measured as a yearly income of $24,800 for a family of four), or within the state’s ALICE population.  ALICE stands for “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed,” and covers those families earning above the national poverty limit, but less than the “survival budget,” i.e. the basic cost of living, for a given area.  Within Morris County, the United Way has calculated the survival budget is $69,012 for a family with two adults and two children. 

 

What was a recent project you worked on? How did it come to fruition?

Recently, we organized a series of workshops for highschool upperclassmen seeking assistance in filing their FAFSA forms for federal student aid.  We will hold these workshops again in the fall, and staff them with volunteer guidance counselors willing to help these students and their parents navigate the application process.  Given that over $2.6 billion in Federal Pell grants went unclaimed by 2018 highschool graduates, we believe that many students may be unaware that they are eligible for these loans, grants, or scholarships.  We also believe that by facilitating the application process for these funds, we help to make higher education more attainable for students relying on this aid. 

 

What was the inspiration behind the formation of your nonprofit?

Being mothers ourselves, we are all too aware of the mounting expenses of child rearing.  The sticker shock of the fall school supply shopping trip alone is enough to make one stop and think: “How do families of more limited means manage this?”  To us, it seemed both unfair and unrealistic to send a child into school without the proper tools, and ask him to succeed (and even excel) alongside his properly-equipped peers.  Project Readiness was formed with the aim of resolving this inequity for any child receiving our services.    

 

What’s on the horizon (with respect to your endeavor; future plans or goals)?

This year has been eye opening with respect to the amount of need within Morris County.  We will spend the next 2 to 3 years ensuring that the needs of the Morris County population are met, through both individuals’ sponsorship of children and larger drives hosted by area corporations.  Our long-term goal is to provide these services throughout New Jersey, narrowing the income-driven achievement gap statewide.   

 

What speaker topics/experts are you looking for? Who can our readers contact if they want to volunteer their expertise? Do you have specific milestones/dates you can share with us (ie. gratitude clubs)?

We have a number of key dates coming up!  We are committed to providing students affiliated with Homeless Solutions, Head Start, The Saint Peter’s Orphanage and Morristown Community Soup Kitchen with school supplies for the upcoming year. Many of these backpacks have already been delivered but we need approximately 50 more by August 12th.  Please contact us at [email protected] if you would like to be matched with a student!  If your corporation or organization would be interested in working with us to host a drive, please reach out as well!   Drives can be anything from 5-500 backpacks–anything helps!!

 

With respect to experts, we are always looking for experts in the fields of social work, education, and guidance counseling.  Anyone with these areas of expertise is welcome to contact us at [email protected].  

 

What is an example of “their own meaningful programming?” If our readers have children who want to get involved in your organization if is that possible and how?

One of the benefits of our mission is that even the youngest children can get involved!  Many families shop for their “student” together, and the sponsor’s own children pick supplies for the recipient.  Children get a lot out of this experience, since school supplies are something tangible that they can easily wrap their minds around.  For many of us, the conversation about poverty in our communities is a difficult one. Why do some have so much, whereas others have so little?  A shopping trip for a backpack to help a child in need can lead to a larger discussion between a sponsor and his or her own child.  

 

We also have many volunteer opportunities available for middle and highschool students — we check and tag each backpack individually, and our database of recipients and sponsors grows by the day.  Any student in need of volunteer hours, or simply just a desire to roll up their sleeves and pitch in should contact us at [email protected]

 

What are additional ways in which our readers can contribute or volunteer their time?

Thank you for reading this far!  Just having awareness of the scope of the poverty issue in Morris County is already helpful to us — please spread the word.  For other ways to help, please visit us at www.projectreadinessnj.org.  There, you can donate money through Paypal, request to be matched with a student in need, or sign up to receive email updates or information on hosting a smaller corporate backpack drive.  Easiest of all, please spread the word about Project Readiness by “liking” us on Facebook at “Project Readiness”, following us on Instagram at “projectreadiness”, and on Twitter at @ProjectReadine1.

 

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