Blog by Patricia Volino, Vice-Principal at Rahway High School and founding member of the Creative Rahway group.
We met Patricia Volino at our Creative Rahway Call to Collaboration in Rahway back in January 2013. During the two-day city-wide convening, Patricia had the opportunity to brainstorm with Rahway business owners, educators and artists who shared her interest in collaborating in order to better integrate the students and schools into the center of community life which would also help enhance Rahway’s blossoming downtown activities. Sparked by the Creative Rahway Call to Collaboration, the group has carried on the name and many of the practices and philosophies of this way of gathering to tackle community issues. The Creative Rahway group has been meeting monthly for over four years!
In this blog, Patricia tell us a little bit more about the early years of this organization, their goals and the challenges they have encountered. She also shares the group’s main achievements and key factors for success that have helped them to become the strong community organization they are today.
What is now known as simply “Creative Rahway” began as “Creative Rahway in Education.” This was a project that began to address several issues within the community and local schools. For too long Rahway has been known as a town with a prison and a bad high school. The Creative Rahway group was born to dispel these myths and highlight the many true and incredible things happening every day in Rahway – not only in schools, but in business and government, as well. Creative Rahway began as a way to generate interest both in the downtown area and the school district, which was losing students to private and magnet schools.
The group grew larger and larger over time through the tried and true method of word of mouth. Once a setting was established where like-minded individuals focused on bringing positive changes to schools and the community could meet and discuss ideas, the group flourished.
It seemed there was serious pent up demand for a place to meet with others that previously seemed so far out of reach. Too often we become so entrenched within our industry or career that it is near impossible to branch out and meet people of different backgrounds that can help you achieve your goals and you, theirs. Creative Rahway made this happen. For the first time schools could meet directly with the mayor’s office, the county performing arts center, local business, and local charities to share ideas, schedules, budgets (something much needed for schools) and suggestions.
It is the goal of our organization to foster meaningful change in our community through the infusion of arts and education in everyday life. This has begun, with school and city coordinating efforts for downtown festivals such as the “culture crawl” or the Christmas tree lighting. Murals have been painted downtown, and the city has worked with the schools to start Rahway’s Own, a Rahway hall of fame that inducts new members each year. Social media has been utilized with new hashtags #RahwayIsHappening and #RahwayInspiresLearning to direct potential investors or homeowners to the great things happening in Rahway’s downtown and schools.
Of course, not everything in the process was smooth. One of the biggest obstacles to overcome was the difference between public and private sectors. Individuals that have been a part of public life for their entire career, such as educators, view things through a specific lens, especially monetarily. Schools have been forced to maximize effort with a limited budget whereas businesses have learned to maximize profit. These issues have come to light in planning and meetings, but with the spirit of meeting our goals and a positive attitude we have been able to overcome these challenges.
Going forward we seek to continue the successes we have already established while further digitizing our process through electronic meeting software and the use of social media to even further advertise and celebrate our accomplishments. Also, we look to focus on excellence through equity by utilizing the community as a tool to expand educational opportunities outside of the classroom. This partnership will truly be a success when a constant stream of support for students in the community continues after the last school bell ends.
If you would like more information about this group please email: info@Rahwayishappening.com.
To join the Creative Rahway Facebook group click here.
Patricia Volino is the facilitator of the Creative Rahway group. Ms. Volino was one of the founding members of the collective and is a Vice-Principal at Rahway High School. Previously, she taught at the Rahway Middle School and coached the track and field team.
Rahway’s Own: http://rahwaysown.com/