PNC Bank Synetek Solutions Volunteer Center of Bergen County

Class Project

Bergen LEADS has gained a reputation as a “think tank” for challenges facing our County. Each year, the class undertakes a project to achieve several goals, including:

  • Give program participants the opportunity to research and apply their knowledge to a real-life community challenge;
  • Encourage a fresh perspective on developing strategies to address the challenge; and
  • Provide a structured and nurturing environment for effective teamwork.

In June of each year, the graduating class presents their findings and recommendations at a Public Forum. If the results of the class project have the potential for a long-term solution, then Bergen LEADS will seek out an appropriate agency to apply the solution.

For more information on any of the below projects, please contact Beanne DeGuzman at bdeguzman@bergenvolunteers.org or 201-489-9454 ext. 203.

Class Projects

Class of 2017--Make It Big in the Gig Economy: The Future of Work in Suburbia

Recently, a nonprofit home health aide service started a subsidized Uber account to get aides without cars to private pay clients in communities with poor public transportation. College campuses now feature ZipCar stations and Bike share kiosks. Incubators and innovation labs offer start-ups and nonprofits shared office space, conference rooms, reception and back office services and equipment.

The “sharing economy” is beginning to account for a larger and larger portion of transactions.  How might technology supported peer-to-peer transactions help solve some of Bergen County’s more intractable challenges, such as:

Poor intra-county public transportation, leaving workers far from work: Uber, Lyft, Side Car, Zip Car 

Older citizens in houses they have trouble maintaining (leaves, snow): TaskRabbit, Neighborgoods

Single parents with erratic work schedules, needing childcare at odd hours

Single individuals in big houses they can no longer afford, but who don’t want to leave the area:  Airbnb, HomeAway

Pet sitting and dog walking: Dogvacay.com,

What state and local laws hinder the advancement of the sharing economy?  What laws might need to be changed to better support those in the gig economy and to protect users? What industries might be disrupted by the advance of the sharing economy (think of Uber’s impact on taxi services)? Studies suggest that only 30% of low income people are aware of and participate in the sharing economy—how might this gap be addressed in our community? To learn more about the presentation, Click Here.


Class 2016 – Take 2, Bergen: Bergen County Film Through the Years

The Class of 2015's task is to develop an understanding of the issues and challenges facing diverse suburban downtowns.

Although NJ and Bergen County, in particular, is the birthplace of modern film industry, Hollywood and New York City are now seen as the epicenters of film, television, and digital media.

Questions that the class will try to answer through this project are:

  • What was the film industry like before in Bergen County?
  • What is its current state?
  • What is the future of Bergen County in the economy of Film, Television and Digital Media?
  • What do we need to do to bring more of the industry back to Bergen County?
  • What will be the short term and long term benefits of stimulating this aspect of our economy?
  • What recommendations do you have for policies to help stimulate this growth?
  • New York City is continuing to expand and develop studio space in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. Why? What are the trends they are anticipating or hoping to stimulate?

Click here for the Class of 2016 presentation: Take 2, Bergen

Class 2015 – Revitalizing and Refocusing Bergen County Suburban Downtowns: How did we get here? What does the future hold?

The Class of 2015's task is to develop an understanding of the issues and challenges facing diverse suburban downtowns.

One important change that is taking place in our community is that we are beginning to come together and identify ourselves as suburbanites. We do so because our fates will not be determined solely by the individual towns or villages we live in and are proud of but rather involve the larger venue of the "middle landscape." We have learned this from our fellow citizens and their leaders who have united regionally and nationally under the banners of "urban" and "rural"  to share information and develop resources to enhance life in cities, small towns and farms. We can and must see the wider picture especially during this period of suburban transformation. – Phil Dolce, Professor of History Chair, Suburban Studies Group, Bergen Community College


Click here for the Class of 2015 presentation: Public Forum: Revitalizing and Refocusing Bergen County Suburban Downtowns

Class 2014 – Real Discussion on Mental Health

Several mental health providers in Bergen County have joined forces to establish the Bergen County Mental Health Advocacy Board.  In October, the Advocacy Board tasked the class to create a dialogue on the county level that would draw attention to and address the stigma of mental health. The goal is to talk about social misconceptions, public policy, advocacy, and the delivery of mental health services and to start talking about it.

Click here for the Class of 2014 presentation: Public Forum: A Real Discussion on Mental Health

Class 2013 – The Future of Nonprofits
The Great Recession – and slow recovery – has ushered in a “new normal” in the non-profit sector. In an era of diminishing resources and increasing need, non-profits are scrambling to provide services and fulfill their mission. The class recommended new strategies for nonprofit success based results of months of research into the response of local nonprofits to the economy and innovative models being embraced by other communities.   

Click here for the Class of 2013 presentation: The Future of Nonprofits: New Strategies for the New Normal.

Class 2012 – Destination BERGEN
The focus of this project was economic development in Bergen County, and was inspired by the plethora of upcoming major events including SuperBowl 2014, Wrestlemania, Ironman Triathalon and Formula One Racing. The class developed a brand for Bergen County called “Destination Bergen.”   Destination Bergen

Class 2011 – The Future of Education
The class split into four teams and explored ways in which the cost/pupil for public education could be decreased – without touching teachers’ salaries. The teams looked at Special Education, Technology, Administrative Consolidation and Operational Efficiencies.   The Future of Education

Class 2010 – The Future of Local Government
The class split into three teams and explored different approaches to making local government more efficient. Teams included:

  • Eliminate Municipal Government
  • Eliminate County Government
  • Keep Both but Tweak to Eliminate Duplication of Services/Decrease Cost

The Future of Local Government Summary A project of the Class of 2010

A Program of the Bergen Volunteer Center | 64 Passaic Street, Hackensack, NJ 07601 | t. 201-489-9454 f. 201-489-1995 | info@bergenleads.org

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