“When turtles and frogs feel better, I feel better. That’s why I want to be a pet surgeon.” How’s that for an answer to the when I grow up cliché? In teal scrubs, Ty Tiana Townes, a kindergartner at George Washington Carver (GWC) Elementary School in Newark, NJ, hugged her mother closely and shared her dreams of tomorrow at the conclusion of the Picture Me Tomorrow Extravaganza. Ty Tiana was one of twenty-something GWC/Bruce Street School for the Deaf students dressed and ready for their future careers under the Newark City Hall Rotunda, on Monday, December 8th 2008.
Picture Me Tomorrow (PMT) is the brainchild of Weequahic Park Super Neighborhood Chairperson Brenda Toyloy, who is also Founding President of the Art of Survival Corporation, a Newark-based not-for-profit designed to empower youth by helping them realize and reach their dreams.
The PMT Extravaganza included a parade of “Career Go-Getters” at GWC/Bruce Street School as well as a talent show under the direction of Heather Kollar, Creative Director, in October this year. “Our youth realizing their gifts is their first step to moving towards careers, and more importantly making good decisions. It’s up to us as mentors to nourish that talent and highlight it as something important and valid,” says Kollar.
The Career Go-Getters presented song, dance, poetry, and interpretive music to City staff and community supporters. Perhaps the most exciting surprise for them, besides the news cameras, was Mayor Cory Booker. Booker welcomed the mini-professionals to City Hall and participated in what seemed to be a shouting match of welcoming cheer between him and the Career Go-Getters.
He then gave a speech in Booker style that spoke of futures created by the audience and how acting today starts the journey of realizing their dreams of tomorrow. Following suit, the students performed their PMT pledge in unison - their promise to “…embrace hard work, explore possibilities and celebrate the journey to achieve [their] dreams.”
The "Picture Me Tomorrow” program encourages student achievement and career exploration through parental involvement, community engagement, and mentorship alliances. As such, the Art of Survival Corporation (TAOS) has also developed a mentorship component in association with The Newark Mentoring Coalition under the development of TAOS Mentorship Director, Patrice A. Theard.
South Ward’s Weequahic High School was selected by Newark Public Schools as pilot location for the long-term mentorship program. The pilot is scheduled to launch early next year. Its success could lead to a district-wide Picture Me Tomorrow initiative.