Newark Downtown District’s (NDD) CEO Anthony McMillan admits that autumn is his favorite season, as it signifies fresh beginnings -- specifically the return of football and back-to-school time. “I always get a feeling of excitement when September is approaching, but I also remember the nerves that would accompany that excitement when I was a kid,” McMillan said. So does the rest of his team at the not-for-profit organization, Newark Downtown District. The organization’s mission is simple: to improve the economic viability of Newark’s central business district — and part of that viability resides in the city’s kids. “Newark has a buzz about it right now,” McMillan said. “But if you beautify a downtown area without supporting one of our most valuable populations--the young people who are our future--something so important is lost.”
So how does NDD make sure that Newark’s youth isn’t overlooked? By partnering with various organizations to put on events geared toward including teens and young adults in the community. One such event is its upcoming Back-to-School Barbecue; Part BBQ and part job fair, the event is designed to connect the kids with the business world. “We want to get kids into conference rooms, get them internships — we want to give them snapshots of what it’s like to be in the business world,” McMillan said. With the help of partnering organization Newark Community Solutions, the NDD is collaborating with companies and organizations like the YMCA and American Lung Association. But this won’t be your typical job fair with a couple of booths and some sign-up sheets — companies will be there interacting with the attendees. Local boutique Off the Hanger will be giving workshops about how to dress in a professional manner, and beauty salon House of Style will give haircuts appropriate for interviews. With music spun by DJ Lil Taj and sandwiches from Jimmy John’s, this event will be much more than your average job fair.
If there is one thing that the NDD knows, it’s that no organization is an island. “We have no delusions of grandeur that we can do anything alone,” McMillan said. “We are a very collaborative place.” To that end, NDD will be partnering with Rutgers University to put on the annual “Halsey Fest,” a festival in early September to welcome back college students. “All the vendors on Halsey Street come out,” NDD Director of Marketing Noelle Frieson said. “It’s a huge block party up and down the street that celebrates the history of Halsey as well as small businesses and the residents of Newark. And this year it’s going to be much more geared toward families.”
Another exciting collaboration that both McMillan and Frieson say is not to be missed is the Downtown Newark Tree Lighting and Holiday Celebration on November 27, which NDD puts on in collaboration with the New Jersey Devils. It takes place at the Championship Plaza outside of the Prudential Center and features carnival games, street hockey, food trucks, and even free pictures with Santa. It’s a time for families to really enjoy the magic of the holiday season, and this year’s celebration will be especially exciting, as NDD gets set to celebrate its 20th birthday in 2018.