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Two dozen at-risk middle school students in Edison get hands-on technology education

EDISON — A collaborative effort among Edison, the Edison Housing Authority, a non-profit organization and two IT companies has given two dozen at-risk middle school students hands-on technology education and a sneak peak at emerging technology careers.

The 10-week pilot program — created by the municipal Policy and Strategic Initiatives administrator Melissa Perilstein and Youth Coordinator Michael Campbell — has been providing afterschool tutoring to students on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons since September. The students are set to complete the program on Dec. 6.

“Edison is collaborating with corporate partners whose employee-volunteers are helping students achieve their academic goals and set new ones for their future,” Mayor Thomas Lankey said.

Perilstein said the program exposes students to “hands-on technology education and provides fresh insight into computer science careers, mobile app development, and other emerging technologies these kids may not otherwise consider.”

The township and Edison Housing Authority joined with the non-profit Dale Caldwell Foundation of New Brunswick, which provides civic and social programs; industrial internet provider Beyond M2M Communication of Burlington; and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), an international IT corporation with offices in Edison to create the mentorship program.

The township also recently partnered with Nakia McCall, artistic director of Rahway-based NaLa Theater Group, who will offer youngsters a look at various theater arts and production careers, Perilstein said.

Students in the mentorship program are from Housing Authority apartments at Robert E. Holmes Gardens, in North Edison, and tutoring sessions are held in the housing authority’s Community Room.

Campbell said the township’s program promotes positive academic and personal behaviors.

“It introduces students to look beyond traditional careers or sports to see alternate paths to success,” he said. “We hope to empower them to be productive, caring and responsible adults.”

Perilstein said it all begins by helping the students “establish goals and realize their potential.”

Councilman Sam Joshi, who has been an advocate for the youth, said all youth, including those from the Housing Authority, have an inherent advantage in digital-centric careers.

“These students were born into the digital generation and they need to capitalize on the fact they’ll understand it better than every generation before them,” he said. “I’m hoping this inspires and motivates students to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers because coding and app making has endless possibilities. I’m happy to have judged this competition. It was a terrific partnership with [the] mayor’s administration, Housing Authority and TATA Consultancy.”

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