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ZAGO Manufacturing, an NJBIA member company known for its one-of-a-kind sealing fasteners and switch boots, is having an impact beyond the industries it serves through a social justice initiative that is making a difference in the lives of Newark students and the community.

The ZAGO Sustainability 360 program, which provides education, tuition assistance, career development, and skills-based training to staff members and students in the community, was launched in 2019 with a focus on students interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). But it has since evolved to benefit Newark students seeking different career paths as well.

Jewel Ayree, a Newark teenager who recently completed a paid internship at ZAGO and is now starting her freshman year as a sociology major at Villanova University, credits her experience at ZAGO with teaching her professional skills and valuable life lessons.

Working in the switch boots department, Ayree learned how to make crystal circuit seals on the machines, but she also learned how important it was to communicate effectively and reach out for help when life’s challenges threatened to derail her college plans.

Ayree first connected with ZAGO in 2020 for an internship as part of a graduation requirement at Cristo Rey Newark High School, a Catholic college preparatory school. During the height of the pandemic, the Archdiocese of Newark announced it was permanently closing Christo Rey, leaving Ayree panicked about how to finish her high school education when other top-notch secondary schools had waiting lists.

Turning to her “ZAGO family” for help, CEO Gail Friedberg Rottenstrich and Vice President Jackie Luciano assisted Ayree with the enrollment process at Science Park High School, a magnet public high school in Newark, and Ayree was admitted the following year.

“I’m extremely grateful for Jackie and Gail, who helped me get into Science Park High School when I thought it would be impossible,” Ayree said.

ZAGO’s internship program, which has provided jobs to four students so far, has not limited itself to developing the engineers, machine operators, or quality control managers needed in the manufacturing industry. With the help of ZAGO, Jewel is now able to study at one of the nation’s top-ranked universities and intends to pursue her passion for social activism.

While ZAGO is a trendsetter in manufacturing, programs like ZAGO Sustainability 360 show that this award-winning NJBIA member company is also a valuable asset to the city of Newark and its students.