February 2014

islesWorks in February
IYI Family Center Health Night
Staff Spotlight
Isles Welcomes New Trustees



Board of Trustees


Ann Marie Senior

Michele Minter 

Nora Brennan

Francis Blanco

Barbara Coe

Michael Dundas

Stuart Essig

Robert Harris

Jacque Howard

Sean Jackson

Oye Olukotun

Linda Revelle

Sa Mut Scott

Calvin Thomas

Henry Von Kohorn


Thanks for your

service to Isles!


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Isles fosters self-reliant families and healthy, sustainable communities.  Why families?  Because despite all the changes to the "family," it is still our strongest social unit.  Our families enormously impact each of us and our neighborhoods - and they are strong predictors of whether or not we will live our lives in poverty. 


Working with youth who want to become successful, we have seen families both help - and hurt - their efforts. 


As a result, we recently added a range of Isles services for Isles Youth Institute family members. These services include  housing assistance,  healthy food access,  health care,  mental health care, job training and placement, and financial literacy and training.


Last month, we held a Family Health Night to introduce families to these new services and opportunities, like joining a community garden.  This islesWorks issue describes that expansion, and some of the energetic, quality staff, like Esther Brahmi, who keep their eyes on the prize - family self-reliance.


Finally, while it is easy to talk about self-reliance and sustainability, it is much tougher to manage an organization that works to bolster them.  Recently,  I was asked to give a talk at the United Nations on that topic titled, Sustainable Development: Rethinking Management of Development Organizations.  You can read my comments here.  The talk will also be published by World Information Transfer in their World Ecology report.


With gratitude, and in community,


Marty Johnson

Family Health Night at Isles Youth Institute & Family Center


This year, Isles Youth Institute (IYI) launched the start of a family center to address the needs of not only IYI students, but their families as well.  The IYI Family Center helps families of students to identify barriers to self-reliance.  To address the health needs of the families, which often inhibits students and families from becoming successful and reaching goals, a "Family Health Night" was held on January 16th.  IYI families were invited to attend an evening focused on healthy and affordable eating, and to learn about the Affordable Care Act and the health insurance options that it provides.


Partnering with the Henry J. Austin Health Center, Isles Urban Agriculture team, and Rutgers 4-H Cooperative Extension, IYI and Family Center executed a successful Family Health Night.  The IYI families were able to participate in a cooking demonstration and learned how to include more fruits and vegetables in their diet in a fun way by making smoothies.  Isles Urban Agriculture team educated families about the community gardening opportunities in Trenton, which provides affordable fruits and vegetables to residents in the city.  Finally, a certified Affordable Care Act (ACA) application counselor from Henry J. Austin Health Center assisted families in learning about their options for coverage under the ACA and helped them to begin enrolling in health insurance plans.

The Family Health Night was a success.  The event served as a kick start to assisting families in accessing health services in Trenton and learning how to improve their overall health and wellness.  IYI families are now on their way to establishing plans to ensure the improvement of their overall health and access to health services. 
Staff Spotlight
Esther Brahmi (center) with IYI students at Prom 2013

Esther Brahmi was introduced to Isles while interning at the Bonner Center for Civic & Community Engagement after graduation from The College of NJ in 2010.  When the internship ended, Esther heard that Isles was looking for a Volunteer and Mentoring Coordinator and was quick to apply for the job.  She had been very impressed with Isles Youth Institute (IYI) staff and students and saw the position as an excellent opportunity to make an important difference in the lives of Trenton youth while learning and growing as a young professional.


In her role, Esther is responsible for implementing the YouthBuild USA AmeriCorps program and the National Mentoring Alliance mentoring model. She recruits, screens, and trains mentors who are then matched with IYI students and monitored.  Esther also oversees student volunteer projects on national service days and holidays, such as helping victims of hurricane Sandy and working with developmentally disabled residents of The Visitation Home.  Additionally, she manages volunteers from the Bonner Scholars Education Division, who tutor IYI students.


This year, Esther has taken on the responsibility of coordinating activities that meet the Isles Youth Institute and Family Center health objectives.  She runs the health improvement workshops and manages volunteers from the Health Division of the Bonner Scholars, who help families identify barriers to healthy living and connect them to resources.  


Along with her many responsibilities at IYI, Esther is a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania working on her MSW.  She holds various certificates from the Princeton House Behavioral Health Center and is a member of Central Jersey Family Health Consortium, Trenton Mentoring Coalition, and the Trenton Prevention Policy Board.  She has been the recipient of various awards, most recently the YouthBuild USA AmeriCorps Leader of the Pack Award and Cherish the Children Professional Award through the Mercer County Department of Human Services.  Esther is from Ventnor, NJ, and currently lives in Trenton.


"Working at Isles Youth Institute has been rewarding for me in so many ways.  Not only have I experienced personal growth by realizing how I want to focus my graduate education and future career goals, but I feel that I have made an impact on the students who have allowed me to be a part of their lives and their personal growth."


Isles' News


Isles, Inc.
10 Wood Street
Trenton, New Jersey 08618