The African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (AACCNJ) announced Jan. 23 the graduation of 31 incarcerated persons at Northern State Prison in Newark from its New Jersey Reentry Entrepreneurial Program (NJREP).
The eight-week program is funded through a partnership with the New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJDOC), Office of Community Engagement, and Reentry Initiatives’ 2022 New Jersey Locally, Empowered, Accountable, and Determined (NJLEAD) grant. The graduation ceremony took place Dec. 19, 2022.
NJREP ran four hours per week over its duration and was facilitated by Carmen Gates, AACCNJ’s director of training and community initiatives, with Tracey Syphax and CJ Meehan of Open for Business Ventures serving as instructors.
The curriculum covered basic business principles, as well other topics, such as: The Ethical Entrepreneur, Recognizing Opportunities, Market Research, Product Marketing, Communications, Social Media, Selling Success, Public Speaking and Image, Management, and The Art of Funding.
John Harmon Sr., founder, president and CEO of the AACCNJ, served as the commencement speaker via a taped message. He said that for more than 15 years, the AACCNJ has been dedicated to economically empowering and sustaining African-American communities and businesses through entrepreneurship and capitalistic initiatives throughout the state of New Jersey.
“Our collaboration with NJDOC in this critical engagement of New Jersey citizens who need understanding of transformational resources, opportunities and information is essential to improving the competitiveness of New Jersey,” said Harmon. “We are delighted that NJDOC has afforded us an opportunity to contribute to this important and mutually beneficial endeavor.”
“NJREP, in partnership with NJLEAD, provides a solid foundation for returning citizens looking to establish their own businesses,” said Selma Morris, director of NJDOC’s Office of Community Engagement and Reentry Initiatives. “The program offers a blueprint for successful entrepreneurship. This blueprint, coupled with the instructors’ credibility, provides the returning citizens with an invaluable opportunity for self-sufficiency and successful reintegration into the community.
Harmon added a reference to the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, who said, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
“Through NJREP, the AACCNJ teaches fishermen how to create generational wealth by becoming captains of their own ships,” said Harmon.