Paying it Forward: One Blue Village
by Jim Gehman
“I was a teen mother from California and Lee is from New Jersey and it led me to New Jersey,” Rubin said. “When I moved here, there was a woman, Vicki Brooks, (an assistant) dean at Rutgers, who gave me an opportunity to go to school as a teen mom. She invested in me in a pilot program that they had at the university. I took advantage of that program and was able to get my college degree.
“I mentioned to Vicki that because she was such an angel on my life, that if I ever got the opportunity to do this, that would be my contribution back to how she opened up the door for me.
“Fast forward, Lee and I got married and he was working for Merrill Lynch (Wealth Management). They had an opportunity for a start-up grant and I started a tutoring program. I had already been taking kids around to libraries and schools and showing them colleges. I came from a home where the parents were divorced, a bit dysfunctional, kind of lived off and on with many people in their homes. My heart was always for kids like that, but kids who were superstars. And so we started raising more money to get kids to be exposed to college.”
Founded in 1999, One Blue Village’s mission is to turn caring into action by ensuring that young people who have a vision for their lives are not only able to survive, but to thrive.
“It started out for kids only in central New Jersey, where we were bringing boys from our area up to (Penn State University),” Rubin said. “I started adopting schools in Pennsylvania so they could participate. There’s no overnight stays and we have teachers and principals and other staff members involved to chaperone on the college tour. So now it’s central Jersey and Pennsylvania. Williamsport (Pennsylvania) has been our primary focus, but we’re getting ready to adopt a school in York. We’re adopting schools to where we’re targeting specific youth and we work with those students and help them get into college.
“When I’m able to get kids into college, it’s thrilling. I am handholding these boys, these girls, I’m literally taking them to their dorms. It’s kind of hard to explain because it’s like you look at yourself and you’re like not this girl from California, she couldn’t have done that. I’ve done a lot of things, but this is the greatest joy of my life to open up the door for students and to guide them through the process and to help them stay there.
“I couldn’t do it without the support of the PAF. We’ve had a lot of opportunities and we’re written certain grants, but the PAF has been consistent with us. I get joy in sending them updates. I get joy in showing them faces. It’s been vital to us. Some of the things we would not be able to do without the contribution. We wouldn’t be able to do what we do.”
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