Feature Story

Youth Leaders Revitalize Bound Brook Park
Public Invited to Grand Re-Opening Block Party August 3rd

Student AmbassadorsA group of teen leaders, called the 4-H / Middle Earth Student Ambassadors for Community Health, are working to improve their local community this summer. During the month of July, the youth are completely revitalizing Maltex Park, located at the corner of Vosseller and West Main Streets in Bound Brook, which has been neglected for years. They will unveil their hard work on August 3rd, inviting the public to a neighborhood block party at the park from 12 to 3 p.m.

The Student Ambassadors are cleaning and landscaping the park to make it beautiful with bright pops of color. The Bound Brook Garden Committee had already created a community garden in the park, allowing residents to raise their own vegetables in a rented plot. The youth are adding herb boxes and a vegetable stand to enhance this service. They are planting two peach trees and several raspberry bushes that anyone visiting the park may pick for free. The Student Ambassadors are also installing a grill, benches, picnic tables, and a Little Free Library, which encourages children to share books. Sweet Reads, a local nonprofit that distributes books to children in underserved communities, is donating the books for the library.

“It's an incredible task the Student Ambassadors have undertaken for their 2019 project,” said Abel Gomez, Bound Brook Councilman. “Working with the Community Garden group, the Student Ambassadors are transforming an underutilized space and revitalizing it into an amazing park filled with art, story boards, and a community garden where people and students want to come, stay and reconnect with the space. It's great to see everyone getting involved in the revitalization of our community.”

To improve street safety at the park, the youth will be painting a street mural and colorful crosswalks, which research has proven to slow drivers down. The teens are also installing a beautiful patterned pathway from the park’s street entrance to the community garden. To serve other Bound Brook youth, the Student Ambassadors are offering classes at the park during the month of July, such as food tasting, arts and crafts, and yoga.

“I am super excited for this project!” said Surya Pillai, a member of the 4-H / Middle Earth Student Ambassadors for Community Health. “The park used to be a staple in the community but became run down over time. Bringing it back, I think, is definitely going to impact the community in a positive way!”

To further unite the Bound Brook community, the Student Ambassadors are creating a “Story Book Trail” leading to the park. The trail is a series of twelve 3D butterfly sculptures designed and painted by New Jersey artists. Each butterfly features a metal podium containing a portion of a story about Maria the Mariposa discovering her life’s purpose. The story is written in both English and Spanish and was illustrated by one of the Student Ambassadors.

The butterflies represent the rebirth of the park and the metamorphosis of the community of Bound Brook. To continue this theme, the park is being renamed Mariposa Park. The artists for four of the butterflies were chosen by the trail’s sponsors: the Bound Brook Arts Council and three redevelopers improving downtown Bound Brook, the Capodagli Charitable Foundation, Deutsch Family Holdings LLC, and West Main St Urban Renewal LLC. The artists will paint the butterflies in front of the public at Bound Brook’s Food Truck Festival, which takes place on July 13th at Billian Legion Park.

As a culmination of the project, the group of teen leaders is inviting the community to attend a Grand Re-Opening of the park on Saturday, August 3, 2019 from 12 to 3 p.m. The students will unveil their finished work and host a neighborhood block party for all to enjoy!

The Student Ambassadors were chosen 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, partnered to advise and coach these youth. You can follow the work of the Student Ambassadors on Facebook @BBSACH or Instagram @bb_sach.

The summer’s project is the result of months of hard work. These youth have collaborated with Bound Brook’s Town Council, Recreation Department, Garden Committee, and Department of Works to plan the renovation of the underserved park. They chose this project to promote unity in the community, healthy living for residents, safety for younger children, and revitalization of the surrounding neighborhood.

This project not only helps the youth realize that they can make a real difference in their own community, it teaches them valuable skills that will help them become the next generation of leaders in Somerset County. The program instills skills in leadership, business, government operations, problem-solving, teamwork, and creativity.

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.