New City Kids

A Jersey City faith-based nonprofit recently learned it can bank on the good will of a local lending institution.

Provident Bank has gifted its former branch at Bergen and Harrison Avenues, to New City Kids, which offers after-school musical and academic classes to urban “under-resourced” kids and teens. (The bank will continue operating five locations in Jersey City.)

The Bergen Avenue site will be the fourth facility the nonprofit operates within the confines of Jersey City, with its “flagship” location at 240 Fairmount Ave., and other locations at Public School 22 in the Lafayette section and at School 34 in Greenville. 

Overall, New City Kids runs seven sites spread among Jersey City, Paterson, Detroit and Grand Rapids, Mich., serving a total of more than 600 young people, with four overseas spinoffs.

The 5,472-square foot former bank building has been renamed the New City Kids Rubingh Center for Youth Development, in honor of New City Kids’ founders, the Revs. Trevor and Linda Rubingh, who launched the Jersey City-based venture in 1996.

Aside from the additional space, the Provident Bank Foundation is giving the nonprofit a “multi-year commitment of $100,000” that will be “disbursed over a 4-year period and will be used for building upgrades, operational support and programming.” 

Since 2003, the foundation has granted more than $30 million to nonprofits and institutions working toward strengthening communities.

Chris Martin, the bank’s executive chairman, said: “Lending a helping hand in the communities we serve and making a positive impact is fundamental at Provident.  It’s extremely gratifying to give back to the community where Provident was founded in 1839.”

And Provident executive director Samantha Plotino added that New City Kids “embodies the values of the Provident Bank Foundation.  Helping to transform the lives of youth by supporting programs that enhances their development is consistent with our funding priorities.  This organization opens doors for youth and teens, partnering with them as they grow into leaders and change-makers in their communities.”

As outlined in its mission statement, New City Kids seeks to build a community of “academic, leadership, musical and spiritual development” with an after-school center for kids in grades 1 to 8, Monday to Friday, 3 hours a day.

Paid teen interns, trained and supervised by adult staff, are hired to work with kids on learning to play musical instruments (kids get to choose lessons on drums, bass guitar, keyboard or voice) and to mentor/tutor youngsters in English, math, geography and performing arts. 

Parents pay an average of $70 per month for tuition, with many receiving subsidies from the Urban League of Hudson County.

As a measure of the program’s success, for the last 14 years, 100% of high school seniors enrolled in New City Kids have graduated from high school, 94% have gone on to college, including two accepted to Princeton this year, and 89% have either finished college or are still pursuing college or graduate degrees, according to the nonprofit.

It will likely take about a year and a half to reconfigure the former bank building to accommodate an extension of the nonprofit programs at a cost that New City Kids communications coordinator Greg Nelson projected at around $2 million—almost as much as it costs to run the group’s entire Jersey City operation.

But the nonprofit got another helping hand from New York City-based longtime New City Kids supporter The William E. Simon Foundation, which has awarded the group a $1,500,000 gift toward the advancement of the project.  According to Trevor Rubingh, additional support for the project also includes Jersey City developers/brothers Eric and Paul Silverman, who helped connect New City Kids with Provident.  

Nelson, who joined the nonprofit as a student at age 5 and whose parents worked as volunteers there, said the new building will accommodate a musical space, classes, an expanded college readiness program, space for teen mental health support and a teen lounge.

An architect has been retained to draw up plans and specification for renovations that will be needed to help create a new design for the building, including a possible conversion of the bank vault into a soundproof studio for the student musicians, Nelson said.  

“The generous support from Provident Bank and the Provident Bank Foundation will serve an invaluable purpose for this community,” said Shaun Hopkins, executive director of New City Kids/Jersey City.  “The youth that come to us already have it in them to be great, but the additional support will allow us to not only expand our impact physically, but to also enhance the support and programs we provide.”

Ron Leir has been a journalist since 1972. That includes a 37-year stint as a reporter, copy reader and assistant editor with The Jersey Journal, followed by a decade as a reporter with The Observer in...