NJSACC's Director of Special Projects Sarah Cruz Shares Her Afterschool Story!
Did you attend an afterschool program in your youth? Tell us what you did after school usually.
I attended the Community Center afterschool program that my mother worked in. It was called the Frog Hollow Community Center in Montclair, NJ and it was located in a small neighborhood of tight knit families. It was in a large converted home and served a hot meal afterschool. We took a van from our school to the center and got to see and play with friends that went to schools all over town. In the summer there was a day camp and we took field trips. We had special guests, played African drums, had carnivals, made snacks with the chef, did art with visiting artists and I am pretty sure we did homework. There was an upright piano and we could take lessons and tinker on the keys. I remember when they built a new playground in the back, it was amazing to watch and THEN get to PLAY ON IT! I loved my afterschool program.
How were you introduced to NJSACC?
I met the Executive Director Diane Genco in 2000 when I started working at the YWCA of Montclair as the Director of Youth Development. NJSACC held a providers meeting in Maplewood and many of the people we still work with today attended! I remember being relieved that people understood my needs and concerns and had actual resources and very relevant ideas and solutions.
When did you start working at NJSACC?
Your title when you started?
Your title now?
- Director of Special Projects
In your view, why is afterschool important?
- Afterschool programs are mini communities, neighborhoods of young people and the adults that keep kids safe, socializing and experiencing a variety of activities. It helps parents get to work and stay working, knowing their children are supervised, which is vital.
In your view, why is NJSACC important?
- NJSACC is a community of professionals that support each other to bring the best programs to youth and families. NJSACC has been in existence for 30 years and my career and my practice have benefited from decades of being connected to the agency.
Sarah Cruz is NJSACC's Director of Special Projects. She has been working with children and for organizations serving children and families since 1996.
From August 2013-March 2021, Sarah was the Special Assistant for Expanded Learning Time (ELT) for the Newark Public Schools, overseeing daily programming for the school districts 30K+ Student population.
Previously, she was the Director of Expanded Learning Opportunities at NJSACC. In that role, she oversaw the development and implementation of Professional Development programming for Out of school Time staff to turn key to their youth participants.
Prior to that role, Sarah served as the Director of the Hanover Township School - Age Child Care Program (HTSACC), a program operated in a NJ Public School system. At HTSACC, she facilitated the National Afterschool Association (NAA) Accreditation of 3 public schools before and afterschool programs. Working closely with the Superintendent, principals and school day teachers, Sarah's goal was to engage the children in the out of school time programs in activities that complimented the school day as well as operate programs that met the NAA Standards for Quality Care.
She has spent many years training afterschool program providers in quality afterschool topics. Nationally, Sarah served as a National Association for Elementary School Principals (NAESP) Facilitator for the workshop “Aligning the Learning Day, Collaborating Strategies for Principals and Afterschool Program Leaders.” She also worked with programs across the country helping principals and afterschool leaders develop a vision for a seamless alignment of school and expanded learning opportunities for children and youth.
In 2001, Sarah wrote ‘Fantastic Finales,’ a compilation of activities for school age children. She attended Douglass College at Rutgers University and graduated with a BA in Urban Planning and a certificate in Professional Youth Work.
In 2010, Sarah completed the National Afterschool Matters Initiative Practitioner Fellow hosted by Philadelphia Writing Project at the University of Pennsylvania, where she conducted an inquiry on Professional Development for Out of School Time Youth Workers.
In 2016, Sarah was honored to become a National Afterschool Ambassador for the Afterschool Alliance, representing NJ advocating on the importance of Out of School Time (OST) programming for youth.
In January 2017, Sarah was elected as the Township Councilwoman for the Third Ward of Bloomfield, NJ and is now in her second term.