This Sunday at 8 PM (EST), Newark, New Jersey-based nonprofit GlassRoots, which uses education in glass as a way to reach at-risk youth, will be featured in the season premier of ABC’s Secret Millionaire reality program that matches wealthy donors with charities. On the upcoming program, New Jersey artist and millionaire Scott Jacobs and his daughter Alexa leave behind their wealthy home environment to live for 6 days in Newark, New Jersey, attempting to subsist on $75 for the week (the equivalent of welfare payments for a family of two). Residing in local housing, they search for people and organizations that are dedicated to making life better for those in need. In the season premier, the two volunteer at GlassRoots and other charitable organizations, and they decide how much to give to individual “community heroes” based on their interactions while their identities remain secret (spoiler alert: $20,000 to Glass Roots). While the whole setup may be a bit contrived, the national exposure for the important work being done at GlassRoots will be reward enough for this arts organization that changes lives.
A perfect example of the important work at GlassRoots was the recent finale of its 2012 Business and Entrepreneurship Program: the Seventh Annual Business Plan Competition, which takes place during an annual trade fair for its students. This event is the culmination of 9 months of study by high school students. GlassRoots follows the curriculum of the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), an international non-profit organization that introduces youth to the world of business. The goal is to work with young people to improve their academic, business, technological, and life skills. In the Glass Making and B & E programs, students learn business concepts, practice skills including marketing, competitive advantage, and pricing, and work on completion of business plans for their own individual businesses, along with the proficiency of producing glass products.
During the competition, four “participant businesses” presented their products, business plans, methods of production and give back to a community of their choice. The six girls who made up the four teams used audio-visual displays for the presentations and answered questions from the five judges (Luke Apicella of Prudential, Mary Forsberg, a Public Policy Researcher, Lawrence Hibbert of BCT Partners, Tijana Hitchon, a GlassRoots volunteer, and Geoff Isles, an artist and collector.) Appropriately, the competition was held in a room at the Rutgers University, Center for Urban and Public Service.
All the girls did an incredible job, and their poise and confidence make it difficult to pick one group over another. Ultimately, the judges picked the team of Carissa Simmons and Jazzlynique Wilson, whose company Kawaii made lampworked glass jewelry that they will market to their peers through the different methods they proposed. The team really took it a step up by learning a few phrases in Japanese, something that really impressed the judges. Second place was given to Tinisha Cooke and Dynayah Grey-Vauters and their company Tying Glass Bows for their line of bowties embellished with glass. Gail Charles of Vine and Laura Cubano of Pandora’s Envelope came third and fourth respectively, the former for her hand blown glasses and plates which she will market to the 67,000 married couples in Essex County, NJ, the latter for her kilncast letter openers, that had Roman and Greek motifs as part of the design.
All the participants received diplomas and awards, and their products were available for sale after the competition in the GlassRoots gallery. GlassRoots provides multiple opportunities for at-risk youth, ages 10-18, to realize their potential through the creation of glass art. As the only non-profit “hot shop” for young people in the greater New York metropolitan area, GlassRoots provides a nurturing environment in which otherwise underserved children can achieve self-esteem and creative expression while also learning basic business skills and valuable life lessons through the exploration of the unique art forms of glassmaking. For more information on GlassRoots’ programming, please visit their website at www.glassroots.org.