After graduating from high school, Simone Richardson began her postsecondary education at a large university in New England, not knowing what she really wanted to study. At the end of her second semester, the Teaneck native returned to New Jersey and enrolled at Bergen Community College as she pondered her academic future.
“While attending Bergen Community College, I learned about the Honors Living-Learning Community (HLLC) at Rutgers-Newark and I was hooked,” Richardson shared. “I knew I wanted to attend a school that focused on community. Rutgers-Newark has a great reputation for being a part of and giving back to the Greater Newark area, and the HLLC fosters a community of diverse, talented, change agents. For me, Rutgers-Newark and the HLLC were matches made in heaven,” Richardson smiled.
To be eligible for the HLLC program, however, Richardson first had to earn an associate degree from Bergen Community College. She graduated with an associate degree in political science in May 2017 and began the fall 2017 semester as an HLLC scholar in the School of Public Affairs and Administration’s dual bachelor-master program. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in 2019 and her master’s degree the following year. Richardson presently is in her first year of a two-year rotation in the Leadership Fellow Program at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
“I loved everything about Rutgers-Newark and the HLLC,” stated Richardson. “I wanted to be somewhere that allowed students the opportunity to dive in and be active. As an HLLC scholar, I availed myself of everything my schedule would permit and never had a dull moment.”
Richardson’s community involvement at Rutgers-Newark included participation in the Abbott Leadership Institute’s New-Ark Leaders of Health project, a cohort of high school and college students who researched chronic absenteeism in Newark Public Schools. Richardson also participated in HLLC’s RISE college-readiness program designed for students at Newark’s West Side High School; the BOLD Women’s Leadership Network, a leadership development and scholarship program for college women from diverse backgrounds; and the Student Governing Association’s WeSpeak Upstander campaign, which, in collaboration with the Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance, encouraged students to stand up and speak out against sexual and domestic violence.
“My experience at Rutgers-Newark was robust. Through the New-Ark Leaders of Health project, I gained public speaking skills,” Richardson said, as she reflected with pride on the team’s recognition for best presentation.
“Through the BOLD initiative’s involvement with the Swipe Out Hunger Program, I helped Rutgers-Newark students who faced food insecurity,” stated Richardson, explaining that unused swipes from student meal plans were used to purchase food for pantryRUN, the campus food pantry that provides free groceries and sundries to Rutgers-Newark students.
“Probably my most rewarding experience is when my team won a $1,000 philanthropy challenge during my first year at Rutgers-Newark,” reminisced Richardson. “We convinced our fellow classmates that a local after-school program that provides educational support, nutritious meals and snacks, guidance, and mentorship to its participants deserved the $1,000 donation. Winning the challenge meant the organization could purchase food, repair or replace its computers, offer scholarships for GED classes, and overall enhance the services it offered,” she continued. “The philanthropy challenge was extremely meaningful to me because it forced me to focus less on myself and be more engaged within Rutgers-Newark and my greater community — and for that, I am most grateful.”