For young people who may have not completed high school or who lack the training to get a job, the International Youth Organization (IYO), a non-profit group based in Newark, has long served as a vital avenue for new opportunities and second chances at a better, more productive life.
For two young people in Newark, IYO has been vital in helping them achieve some important life goals.
“IYO has helped me get my high school diploma. They have also helped me get my learner’s permit,” said Omar, 16.
Malachi, 17 years old, is also on track to get his high school diploma through IYO.
“I am almost there with graduating. I just need to take two more tests,” said Malachi. “IYO has been so helpful with tutoring. Not just tutoring, but they also help out with college interviews, food, and transportation to important appointments.”
IYO, a non-profit group that trains and educates young people, was started in 1970 by Carolyn and James Wallace with a cadre of devoted volunteers. It primarily serves the city of Newark and Essex County and has administered the New Jersey Youth Corps for the county since 1984. During its long existence, IYO has successfully trained and supported countless youths and young adults who want a "second chance" at a brighter future.
“They've been fighting the good fight in educating youth who fall through the cracks,” said South Ward Councilman John Sharpe James, who’s been an enthusiastic supporter of IYO. “They get rave reviews. As a longstanding organization in the South Ward, they built themselves from the ground. I refer everyone who needs training to them.”
Recent achievements of the group in the last few months include 30 people getting IYO training, seven people receiving high school diplomas, and four people becoming employed. In one poignant example, Carolyn Wallace, CEO of IYO, said they helped out a 16-year-old high school drop-out living in a homeless shelter with his family. IYO was able to give him academic assistance, food, clothing, and some training.
“The number one, main goal of what we try to do here is to eliminate poverty,” said Wallace.
The inspiration for IYO came from James Wallace who served the city as a firefighter and Newark special police officer.
“Mr. Wallace observed the myriad dangers that awaited young people on street corners. 'Giving kids a route off the streets’ was his idea to help improve young people and their families’ lives and to help them realize their full potential and to be productive citizens,” reads the IYO website.
James Wallace passed away in 2004 with his wife Carolyn taking over IYO that year and continuing the group’s important mission to help the community and uplift young people.
IYO’s services, which target young people between 16 to 25 years of age, include educational instruction to complete their high school diploma or GED and employability/life skills training in order transition to college, additional training or the work force. In addition, IYO helps young people with additional employment instruction, career services, job placement, and opportunities to work on community service projects.
The group recently received a donation of $25,000 in early September from real estate development firm Hanini Group after IYO reached out to community stakeholders for assistance in opening their doors after COVID-19 closures and for operating expenses. Hanini Group had previously worked with IYO, leading to this present commitment.
“We are delighted about this donation,” said Carolyn Wallace. “This donation allows us to support IYO’s important programming and mission, and it also gave us the funds necessary to reopen IYO’s doors that were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We needed money to help pay for reopening certification from the city and this donation certainly helped.”
“We are happy to help an organization that has helped so many,” said Samer Hanini, principal at Hanini Group. “Mrs. Wallace is a proven leader in the community and her organization’s long track record speaks for itself.”
All donated money goes towards working capital for the entire program, said Wallace. Even with this much needed donation, IYO is still in the midst of raising more money for its various programs.
To donate to IYO, people should visit the group’s website at https://iyo-newark.org