Second Cohort of Aspen Young Leaders Ready to Tackle Issues Across Essex County

May 2, 2018

Twenty-six area youth named to 2018 cohort of Aspen Young Leaders Fellowship

James White
The Aspen Institute
202.297.3990 |

Kimberlee Williams
Rutgers University-Newark
973.353.5262 |

WASHINGTON, DC, May 2, 2018 – In partnership with Newark Public Schools, Rutgers University-Newark (RU-N), and the Victoria Family Foundation, the Aspen Institute’s Youth and Engagement Programs is excited to welcome 26 Essex County youth to the 2018 cohort of Aspen Young Leaders Fellows.

The Aspen Young Leaders Fellowship (AYLF) is a place-based, multi-site initiative of the Aspen Institute’s Youth and Engagement Programs that partners with local communities to develop the next generation of local, purpose-driven leaders nationwide. Selected Fellows convene for nine seminars over 15 months to build skills necessary to engage effectively and lead change in their communities and beyond. New to the Fellowship in 2018, Fellows will be offered paid summer internship opportunities to develop social ventures relevant to issues facing their communities.

“The Aspen Young Leaders Fellowship is a great opportunity for young leaders in Essex County,” said AYLF Fellow success coach and Newark, NJ native Rashon Hasan. “This Fellowship experience helps young leaders develop skills, build connections, and draw inspiration to transform their communities. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with young leaders in Newark and across Essex County to transform their ideas into passion for a better Essex County and a better New Jersey.”

In 2017, Newark welcomed AYLF into Essex County as a launch site. Five sessions into the Fellowship experience, the inaugural cohort of Newark Fellows is preparing to apply skillsets developed in year-one to drive real, sustainable community impact through social venture projects. Selection of a 2018 cohort makes Essex County the first site to welcome multiple cohorts of budding young leaders into the AYLF community.

AYLF’s mission is to position young people to make long-term investments in their communities and provide support for them to drive positive, significant, and sustainable community impact. In building a local cohort of young leaders, emphasis is placed on diversity with respect to race, socioeconomic status, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and ability throughout the selection process. Selection is based on leadership potential – not solely the best grades or school attendance, but signs of strong leadership qualities, behaviors, and traits.

“We are thrilled to welcome a new group of passionate, capable young people to the AYLF community,” said AYLF program director Zakiya Reid. “Through a selection process that garnered nearly one hundred applications, we’ve arrived at a group of 26 young people from across Essex county who exemplify AYLF values and are eager to act on their passions to impact the communities they live in.”

This newest cohort of AYLF Fellows are public, charter, and private high school and two and four-year college students. They represent communities across Essex County, have a range of political views, and are passionate about leading lasting community impact with respect to issues including racial and educational equity, gender equality, homelessness, and healthcare.

The work of the Fellowship and selected Fellows is made possible through the support of community partners who, like the Aspen Institute’s Youth and Engagement Programs, believe in the power of young people to make their communities and the world a better place. Newark Public Schools, Rutgers University-Newark, and the Victoria Family Foundation have committed to the development of the next generation of leaders in Essex County.

“I want to thank the Aspen Institute for their work to bring this program to Newark in recent years, and congratulate the students who were accepted into this 2018 cohort,” said interim superintendent of Newark Public Schools Robert Gregory. “In order to make progress as a city, we must prepare our young people to be better leaders than we are and to give back to their community. The Aspen Young Leaders Fellowship provides an exciting opportunity for our students to gain exposure to valuable learning experiences and resources provided by a national organization, which will help them build the skills needed to become the future leaders our community needs.”

Said Rutgers University – Newark senior vice chancellor for public affairs and chief of staff Peter Englot, “AYLF is precisely the kind of pathway program we need to tap the untapped talent in Newark and cities like it around the nation. After all, it is these students and others from diverse communities like ours who will be tomorrow’s leaders and AYLF is keenly attuned to cultivating them to grow into those roles. Most important of all: we are doing this with cross-sector partners—the Aspen Institute, Newark Public Schools, and the Victoria Family Foundation—pooling our knowledge and experience in ways that we know tomorrow’s leaders increasingly will have to do as they take on the persistent challenges we face in our communities locally and globally.”

“We at the Victoria Foundation are excited to welcome the Aspen Institute’s second cohort of Newark Fellows,” said Victoria Family Foundation program associate Monica Hall. AYLF “is one of the few programs that support both high school and college aged young leaders. We believe that investing and empowering these age groups will result in a more civically engaged citizenry and support young people acting as agents of change through innovative solutions to pressing societal issues.”

The 2018 Essex County cohort of Aspen Young Leaders Fellows will kick off the Fellowship on the campus of RU-N Friday, May 4.

Youth & Engagement Programs is dedicated to empowering young people ages 14-24 from diverse backgrounds to tackle critical issues. Through innovative programming and partnerships nationwide, the division provides young people with the training and tools they need to succeed in the modern economy and lead the change that they want to see in their communities. The work fuels the powerful transfer of social capital and significantly broadens the reach of the Institute beyond the constituencies it has traditionally served. For more information, visit

The Aspen Institute is a nonpartisan forum for values-based leadership and the exchange of ideas. The Institute is based in Washington, DC and has campuses in Aspen, Colorado and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit

The Newark School District is the largest and one of the oldest school systems in New Jersey. The racial and ethnic diversity of Newark provides a rich educational experience for pre-kindergarten to secondary school students. The district operates 65 traditional public schools, with a total enrollment of just over 36 thousand students. The Newark School District continues to revise its services to meet the changing needs of the students they serve.

Rutgers University-Newark is a diverse, urban, public research university that is an anchor institution in New Jersey’s cultural capital. Approximately 12,000 students are currently enrolled at its 38-acre campus in a wide range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs offered through the Newark College of Arts and Sciences, University College, the Graduate School-Newark, Rutgers Business School-Newark and New Brunswick, the School of Law-Newark, the School of Criminal Justice, and the School of Public Affairs and Administration. Rutgers University-Newark has a remarkable legacy of producing high-impact scholarship that is connected to the great questions and challenges of the world. It is in and of a city and region where its work on local challenges undertaken with partners from sectors resonates powerfully throughout our urbanizing world.  Most importantly, Rutgers University-Newark brings an incredible diversity of people to this work – students, faculty, staff, and community partners – making it more innovative, more creative, more engaging, and more relevant for our time and the times ahead. For more information, please visit

The Victoria Family Foundation is a place-based, private foundation located in Newark, NJ. It has a two-fold mission: to improve the lives of children and families in need in Newark, NJ and to protect water resources and preserve precious open space statewide.

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