Tag Archives: McKenna Samson

Beyond Anyone’s Expectations

By McKenna Samson

Designed with the purpose of assisting all students across the state, especially those who have grown up in and aged out of the foster care system, Beyond Expectations is a New Jersey community multimedia organization for these students. The group’s goal is to teach students marketable skills in film, media, and science–through hands-on film projects–which will enable them to use such skills to obtain a career.

For youth aging out of the foster care system, the possibility of continuing onto a secondary education or finding a profitable career is slim. Children in the foster care system do not always have a stable education or living environment. In fact, “40-63% [of youth in foster care] did not finish high school,” according to Children’s Rights.

This lack of a steady education can hinder the ability of youth to obtain a steady job and income. It is believed that between 25-55% of youth that have aged out of foster care are unemployed, according to Children’s Rights, and those who have found employment have average earnings below the poverty level. Due to circumstances beyond their control, at-risk adolescents in and aging out of foster care are set on a path for disadvantagement.

Leontyne Anglin, the executive director of Beyond Expectations, started as a parent volunteer at the birth of the organization. Seeing the lack of college preparation resources at her teenage daughter’s school events, in 1999, she gathered a group of parents and set out to make opportunities for middle and high school students.

“50 people showing up to the event would make it a big deal. 200 people showed,” Anglin reminisces. As the organization continued, Anglin began to realize that teaching students skills to properly market themselves in professional and secondary education settings would best benefit them.

“One of my favorite aspects of the program is the amount of engagement with the students. The skills they’re taught are hands-on. The staff lets the students make all of the decisions in their projects and fully produce them,” Anglin told The Streetlight.

While Beyond Expectations in open to all students in Burlington and Mercer Counties, foster students are able to find a support system within the organization.

“Foster students are an invisible group,” Anglin explained.

One of the first projects produced by Beyond Expectations, 18 and Out, highlights the stories of youth aging out of foster care. Anglin cites this film as one that has resonated with her for years, even convincing her to take a media approach for students in Beyond Expectations. Even ten years after the short film was made, Anglin references it when providing examples for newer films.

Beyond Expectations is working to reach students all over the Garden State. The organization currently has two office locations–one in Bordentown and one in Trenton. The program works to support students emotionally, socially, and educationally. Beyond Expectations has five key areas for students to explore; media production, service leadership, entrepreneurship, financial literacy, and sports media. These areas allow students to diversify their options and find their key area of expertise. Students are encouraged and guided to create their own film projects, edit, and screen at film festivals.

The success of this media-oriented program can been seen in its results, according to Beyond Expectations, with students from the program being accepted to over two dozen colleges and universities. The organization’s Young Professionals Leadership Initiative helps to build resumes for students, teaching them about job opportunities and ways to market themselves for careers.


Soup Kitchen Expansion: TASK’s Latest Task

By McKenna Samson & Engy Shaaban

The Trenton Area Soup Kitchen on Escher Street. Photos by Jared Kofsky/The Streetlight.

The Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) has provided services to thousands of those in need for the past 35 years and has become one of the area’s leading nonprofit organizations in the process. In addition to meal services, the kitchen houses an Adult Education Program, an Arts Program, and Case Management Services. In the past five years, TASK has provided over 1.1 million meals and its program services have increased by 30 percent.

TASK relies on the help of volunteers to keep many of these programs running, and only receives three percent of its funding from the federal, county and state resources. The kitchen benefits from donations and the meals are served entirely by volunteers, so it remains largely a community-run effort.

To maximize their efforts, TASK has recently announced that it will be expanding its building and beginning renovations to update already-existing portions to better accommodate its patrons and staff. Executive Director Joyce Campbell spoke of the project’s timeline and explained that although there have been a few “starts
and stops”, the expansion is expected to be done in August and the renovations in September. She noted that TASK will continue to serve meals and provide services during all phases of the project.

The expansion is set to include additional rooms for partner organizations to offer on-site services. In addition to increasing capacity in the dining room, this will also provide a more private
setting for confidential conversations, more space for eye exams and blood pressure readings. A multipurpose room will be built to house TASK’s Adult Education and will also serve the arts programs, allowing them to operate year-round. Four additional computer stations will be added in a private testing and intake area for students. A walk-in refrigerator will be brought in to increase storage for perishable foods. On-site storage for TASK records will be established which will eliminate the cost of off-site storage and allow for these funds to be dedicated elsewhere. And finally, a space for administrative staff to work will be built which will free out office space for direct service staff working with patrons.

Building renovations will allow for an office for the Kitchen Manager to coordinate kitchen operations more effectively and efficiently. It will also move the Patron Services office and enlarge it to address privacy concerns; provide volunteers with space to store their personal items and to change for meal service; and double the space for the storage of personal hygiene and other basic needs supplies. This enlarged space is particularly important as it will accommodate the large number of holiday donations that TASK receives. The renovation will also include a reorganization of the patron computer lab; new, sturdy work surfaces; and proper storage for extra equipment.

The majority of the space will receive a new coating of paint and flooring. Campbell explained the importance of the latter and the impact that these changes will have on TASK employees: “Staff morale begets positive patron service and patron success.”

The expansion will provide 3,679 square feet of additional space dedicated to advancing TASK’s mission of feeding body, mind, and spirit. Campbell told The Streetlight that “the expansion will certainly impact the community very positively.”

“It will allow us to bring in more services. We will have designated spaces for these services and service providers so it will allow for more privacy and efficiency. It will also allow us to provide services during the evening and on weekends; and it will allow outside providers to run programs when the soup kitchen is closed and we are not there. This will all build on our community-centered approach to the work that we do,” Campbell explained.


Trenton Area Soup Kitchen
72 1/2 Escher Street Trenton, NJ
(609) 695-5456