Feature Story

Youth Leaders Improve Bound Brook Street Safety

During the month of July, a group of teen leaders worked to improve street safety in their community of Bound Brook. During the 2017-18 school year, these youth collaborated with government and community leaders to identify the health needs of Bound Brook and determine some viable options for solving them.

The youth were selected for this initiative through a grant from New Jersey Health Initiatives (NJHI), which seeks to empower young people to learn about issues that affect their community and to utilize tools and support systems already in place to make a difference. Somerset County 4-H, a youth development organization, and Middle Earth, a youth support and mentoring nonprofit, are partnering to advise and coach these youth.

By brainstorming ideas, reviewing a community health survey, and hearing from local experts, the teens decided to focus on street safety in Bound Brook. Their idea came from the Blue Print for Action developed by the Leadership Team from the Building Bridges to Better Health Initiative, which is also funded through Robert Wood Johnson Healthier Initiatives. They felt that street safety affects both the physical and mental health of a large part of the community’s population.

The Student Ambassadors developed a three-prong approach to improve street safety in Bound Brook, which they implemented during the month of July:

First, the youth leaders built a parklet, which is a small, temporary structure that acts as an attractive sidewalk extension, providing more space and amenities for the public. The parklet can be quickly assembled and disassembled for transport and is roughly the size of a parking space. The teens assembled the parklet at many community events during July, offering Bound Brook residents an attractive place to stop, to sit, and to rest while taking in the activities of the street. The parklet visited Movies in the Park in the field at Billian Legion Park every Wednesday; the Farmer’s Market every Thursday; and the Bound Brook Food & Truck Festival. The teens named their structure, “Pina the Parklet,” and encouraged the community to follow @pinatheparklet on Instagram.

Second, the youth leaders, with guidance from a local artist, painted four beautiful street murals around Bound Brook. The teens outlined a design, and then invited the community to help paint the mural in a method similar to a “paint by numbers” approach.

Finally, the group of teen leaders also worked with the local government to improve crosswalks in town. The improvements included collecting data about jaywalking, distracted driving, vehicles yielding to pedestrians, and cyclists. Once the data was collected it was brought forward to local government officials to use as proof of concept to implement high visibility crosswalk improvements within town.

To learn more about Somerset County 4-H, visit: somerset.njaes.rutgers.edu/4h/

To learn more about the NJHI: Next Generation Community Leaders initiative, visit njhi.org and participate in the conversation online with the hashtag #NJLeaders2030. In 2030, the youth participating in NJHI: Next Generation Community Leaders will be 29-31 years old, poised to expand their impact as effective leaders, and one election cycle away from meeting the minimum age requirement for a U.S. presidential bid.

About New Jersey Health Initiatives: New Jersey Health Initiatives is the statewide grantmaking program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Established in 1987 in honor of the New Jersey philanthropic legacy of RWJF's founder, Robert Wood Johnson, NJHI supports innovations and drives conversations to build healthier communities through grantmaking across the State of New Jersey. To meet the many health needs of our state's diverse populations, regions and communities, the NJHI program encourages collaboration across sectors to foster deep relationships committed to long-term change affording all New Jerseyans the opportunity to live the healthiest life possible. Learn more about NJHI at njhi.org, and follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/NJHI_ or on Facebook at facebook.com/newjerseyhealthinitiatives.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the largest private foundation in New Jersey and the nation’s largest philanthropy working to improve the health and health care of all. The Foundation is striving to build a national Culture of Health that will enable all to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. RWJF has invested more than $1.2 billion in New Jersey since 1972. For more information, visit rwjf.org/nj. Follow the Foundation on Twitter at rwjf.org/twitter or on Facebook at rwjf.org/facebook.