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Learn more about Network Connect

Cierra Hall-Hipkins

Co-Founder, Network Connect

Network Connect was founded in 2019 with the mission of improving the coordination of youth-serving organizations by building effective partnerships for youth, families, communities, and organizations. We aim to break the cycle of adverse childhood experiences by focusing on the social, cultural, and educational development of youth in Delaware. 

Network Connect is dedicated to improving the overall outcomes of the youth in Delaware by connecting them with employers, schools, community-based and non-profit organizations. Network Connect’s two founders, Erin Hutt and Cierra Hall-Hipkins have a strong background in youth programming and development services, with a breadth of experience in administering employment and training programs, as well as working with vulnerable populations, social work, and community outreach. Together, they have experience with all of these populations; low-income, low-literacy, learning disabilities, incarcerated and reentering, homeless, victims of domestic violence, English language learners, youth at risk of dropping out of school, and victims of traumatic stress and mental illness. Both grew up in Wilmington, attended public schools, have degrees from HBCUs, and have personal experience in navigating the same obstacles faced by populations they serve.  Their passion and effectiveness in helping youth overcome systemic obstacles are clear from their track record. 

Current Network Connect Projects include...

RACE to Wellness Campaign

RACE (reverse the Adverse Childhood Experiences)   is a campaign created to increase understanding, enhance family capacity, and promote early intervention of ACEs through universal screening and the implementation of preventative strategies within communities. Per the Center for Disease Control, there are six strategies that prevent Adverse Childhood Experiences, each of these strategies have been included in the outcomes we plan to measure and meet. This work will further the mission of improving coordination for youth-serving organizations by putting the community partnership to the test. It will allow us to prove that effective coordination and communication between all parties directly affect the experiences of the youth we serve. We believe similarly to the Harlem Children's Zone in that strong programs and whole child initiatives will provide results. Our approach is different from the Zone in that it pulls together already existing organizations and provides them with capacity building, coordination, and communication mechanisms that increase the power of the collective. We know improving these endeavors will reverse the effect of adverse childhood experiences for the children we serve collaboratively. Phase One: Wellness Kits were released in November. These kits allow us to educate youth and families about ACE’s and provide them and their families with tangible coping mechanisms. 

Community Well-being Ambassadors

The Community Well-Being Ambassador (CWA) Initiative is a community-driven, place-based prevention strategy to increase the capacity of targeted neighborhoods in the City of Wilmington. The innovative approach promotes community well-being and resiliency among their residents across the life span. The newly established initiative is the result of a collective impact approach between the following organizations who are willing to bring their unique skills in the interest of addressing a common cause.

Partners include:

1.      Wilmington Community Advisory Council 

2.      University of Delaware 

1.      Partnership for Healthy Communities 

2.      Center for Drug and Health Studies 

3.      Delaware Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health

4.      Network Connect 

5.      Center for Structural Equity/Community Intervention Team (CIT)

6.      Minds in Motion Integrated Behavioral Health

7.      Health Management Associates 

The intent is to address the trauma and toxic stress that community members have experienced. Network Connect and CIT will build a community well-being collaborative with six community organizations that already function as neighborhood “host sites” for information and services.

Network Connect and CIT will hire community members to serve as full-time, paid

“Community Well-Being Ambassadors” and be based at the host sites. The Community Well-Being Ambassadors will provide support to youth, families, and other community members who may be referred by the host sites, other organizations and groups, the community at large, or may be self-identified. The support will include helping the individuals identify their most pressing needs, providing relevant information, and developing strategies for addressing those needs, including connection to behavioral health and other community services and on-going support.

 Future Culture Creators​  

A youth workforce development program. Through subsidized job placement and year-round training, this program provides critical support in keeping our state’s highest-need youth engaged. The purpose of the program is to provide academic enrichment and promote awareness of post-secondary options while challenging participants to grasp critical correlations between learning, high school completion, work experience, civic engagement, and how those variables impact their potential for college and career success. 

Teen Co-Learning Space 

In response to COVID-19 and the change in the way our youth are educated, Network Connect’s Teen Co-Learning Space was created. This is a learning environment that promotes independence by providing guidance with distance learning platforms and academic support. Youth in 8th to 12th grade can receive tutoring, meals, wifi, and a team of skilled supportive adults who will assist them with meeting academic goals and building social-emotional skills. 

Safe Haven Program Coordination 

Network Connect plays a vital role in the community, acting as a swift and reliable intermediary between diverse program practitioners and the leaders of community-based agencies. The result is dynamic programming led by compelling and well-trained practitioners in culturally significant institutions. Network Connect’s coordination and tech assistance program is a unique approach to human services with a  focus on providing the youth of New Castle County and their support systems optimal services. We provide grassroots organizations with screening, training, and evaluation services in an effort to link them to larger entities that are in need of outcome-driven meaningful programming. 

The Safe Havens model supports enrichment programs at the centers during extended hours. The goal is to curb gun violence and reduce crime by providing meaningful activities during those critical hours youth are most likely exposed to street activity. We provide youth recruitment and supportive services in 10-week increments, up to 4 days a week from the hours of 6 pm-8:30 pm, with several options of programming to choose from. 

Stay connected to Network Connect by following them on social media or subscribing to their website for more details to come. www.networkconnect.or​g 

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