Congratuations to Erin Sweeney & Antonio Valla
Erin Sweeney (HKS '07) and Antonio Valla (GSD '08) each came to Newark over five years ago, Erin to return to the urban nonprofit sector after a stint in the Foreign Service, and Antonio to continue his dream work as an urban planner; each fell quickly and deeply in love with Newark. Antonio was first to connect with GlassRoots, an incredible nonprofit glass art studio that uses the power of fire and glass to transform lives, especially those of Newark youth. A year after joining the Board, Antonio introduced Erin to the organization and they have each been devoted volunteers and supporters of GlassRoots ever since.
GlassRoots is more than an art studio; it is an organization that has been changing the lives of thousands of youth, young adults, and adults since its start 15 years ago. GlassRoots uses various types of glass art methods to teach students not only about self expression and creativity, but about business, entrepreneurship, teamwork, patience, persistence, and much more. As volunteers and Board members, Erin and Antonio work countless hours each month assisting the organization. The highlight for both of them is whenever they teach career or life skill sessions to students in the programs.
Erin says, "It has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life to watch our students grow in front of our eyes from timid, self-conscious, unsure teenagers into confident, proud, and motivated young adults. GlassRoots changes lives every day and is a true force for transformation, not only for our youth, but for the greater Newark community."
November and the first week of December were very busy for the apprentices in the Varis Program. Students had a number of site visits:
Following the presentation by NJIT, we will conduct job search on the new CareersConnectionNJ website of the NJ Department of Labor for both glass and related manufacturing employment. According to Ray Vaccari, the head of the manufacturing talent network, there are many openings and companies struggle to fill them. Finally, a number of positions have been listed on the ASGS employment board that we will explore.
From the earliest days of the program, we have emphasized the need to be willing to move for work in scientific glass. At least one of our students will consider moving. All of the students are aware that the vast majority of jobs are obtained through networking and word of mouth. They will seek information interviews to jumpstart this process post-graduation. Students created LinkedIn pages as a part of the program.
We continue to work on freelance production opportunities and the students have learned to make the vial pendants that may be commissioned by Aspiring Artists of the Earth and spreader tools used in the biology and life sciences departments of local university labs.
Funding for this session of the Varis Scientific Glass Apprenticeship Training Program was provided by the Agnes Varis Charitable Trust, and by the M & T Bank Foundation. We are grateful for the support of these two organizations.
Graduation is scheduled for December 15th at 4pm at GlassRoots. Graduates will invite friends and family to this festive event. They will receive their certificates of completion from GlassRoots, and the American Scientific Glassblowers Society via Mike Souza.
Upon completion of the GlassRoots-Penland Collaborative “launch week, six students officially completed the first offering of this new exciting program. Two of the students have already reported their admission to Rutgers and we anticipate hearing about the other students who applied. In addition to college applications, students completed resumes, biographies, and cover letters for future jobs. Throughout the week students worked with Emma Stein and other staff, photographing the work they completed from Penland -- they even had extra time for students to study and take their drivers written test. The culmination of their experience was a show that students curated together and had a wonderful opening where images they took while at Penland were displayed. Students will now be on their way with pursuing a college career and having regular check-ins with GlassRoots and studio time every month. We are all very proud of the students for having completed this 9 credit program and look forward to seeing how this experience will shape their futures.
The mission of GlassRoots is to ignite and build the creative and economic vitality of greater Newark, with a focus on under-served youth and young adults, through the transformative power of the glass art experience.