Edison’s ‘SWAG’ mentorship program receives national recognition

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PHOTO COURTESY OF STEMCONNECTOR
Melissa Perilstein, Edison’s administrator of Policy and Strategic Initiatives, center, discusses the importance of public-private partnerships with Lonald Wishom, right, manager of Tata Consultancy’s government and community partnerships, and Ashley Szofer, communications director for Washington DC-based STEMconnector.

EDISON – Edison Township’s mentorship program that helps at-risk youth strengthen their academic skills and introduces them to emerging technology careers has received national recognition as an “innovative model” for other communities to replicate.

Edison was the only municipality in the United States invited to a Washington, D.C. symposium on July 16 highlighting how public-private partnerships can enhance science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education for K-12 students.

“It was a great privilege to share Edison’s creative model for helping children improve their academic skills and study habits, and focus their attention on careers in technology and the sciences,” said Melissa Perilstein, Edison’s administrator of Policy and Strategic Initiatives, who represented Edison at symposium.

The daylong event was sponsored by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), a multinational IT conglomerate with its North American headquarters in MetroPark, and DC-based STEMconnector, a tech-based think tank. The conference was held at Florida International University’s facilities in Washington.

Edison launched its afterschool SWAG Mentorship Program with a 10-week pilot held from September to December in 2018. The program gave two dozen at-risk middle school students from the Robert E. Holmes Gardens in North Edison hands-on technology education and a sneak peak at emerging technology careers.

The program was made possible through a collaboration with the Edison Housing Authority, the non-profit Dale Caldwell Foundation of New Brunswick, industrial internet provider Beyond M2M Communication of Burlington; and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), an international IT corporation with offices in Edison.

“Our goal was to help children recognize their potential in the high-tech workforce and expose them to new career possibilities,” Perilstein said.

SWAG, which stands for success, workforce options, accountability and goals for the future, encourages students ages 11–14 to make positive life choices, develop healthy relationships, provide tutoring and introduce them to emerging technologies.

“It is a tremendous honor for our SWAG Mentorship Program to receive this national recognition and attention,” Mayor Thomas Lankey said. “Edison welcomes other New Jersey communities and municipalities throughout the U.S. to emulate and build upon the model that we created.”

The SWAG program – which Edison plans to host again this fall – offers tutoring; lessons in STEM education and mobile app development; and career exploration in a number of different fields, especially emerging technologies.

The mentorship program is one of several unique public-private initiatives the Lankey Administration has created since 2014. Among the initiatives is the township’s annual Scoop and Score football camp, which teaches youngsters, ages 6–18, gridiron skills and promotes the importance of academics; healthy lifestyle and nutrition choices; and community involvement.

Edison is also in the fifth year of its partnership with N.J. Institute for Disabilities for the Snack and Shack café in the Town Hall lobby that provides hands-on job training and community inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities.

For more information, contact Melissa Perilstein at 732-248-7298 or email [email protected].