Youth Leadership Committee strengthens connection between NJEA and Boys and Girls Clubs

Following a guided tour of the Boys and Girls Club in Lawrence Township that highlighted science, technology, engineering, math (STEM), culinary arts, and a bike repair program, the members of the NJEA Youth Services Committee were inspired to work more closely with their individual local and county Boys and Girls Club affiliates. NJEA committees are composed of county association member representatives.

“The goal of our tour was to deepen the connection between NJEA and the Boys and Girls Clubs and support them in the amazing work they do for the children in our communities,” said Youth Services Committee Chair Mary Karriem.

Committee member and Deptford Education Association member Shannon Pizzuta initiated a meeting with Patti Withington, CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Gloucester County.

“Patti told me about the three club locations in Gloucester County and the amazing projects and programs they offer,” Pizzuta said. “Together, we brainstormed many ideas for future projects on which we could collaborate. I told her I would like to create ‘book nooks’ or ‘library corners’ in each club since none of the clubs currently have library spaces.”

Michelle MacLacklin, of Deptford EA, reads to a child in Glassboro.

“I contacted Gloucester County Education Association (GCEA) President Sue Clark to ask for assistance communicating with other local associations, and she asked me to present the project at the next GCEA meeting,” Pizzuta continued. “The response was enthusiastic and immediate! Ten associations signed up to host book drives. The drives concluded at the end of January and we collected enough books to create library spaces at each of the clubs.”

Clark also assisted Pizzuta in applying for NJEA Pride in Public Education funds to pay for the bookshelves.

In addition, the local associations volunteered to have a Teacher-Reader Night at each location the evening they delivered the books.

“This way, teachers can visit with the children, share their favorite stories, and continue to instill the love of reading in children,” Pizzuta said.

NJEA has long had a strong relationship with the Boys and Girls Club, including providing funding for three clubs’ after-school and summer camp youth programs.

Recently, NJEA and the Boys and Girls Clubs launched an initiative to establish a Future Educators Academy at the three clubs. The academy will host guest speakers, coordinate field trips to local colleges and schools, run service projects, and work to boost enrollment in the Urban Teachers Academies.

A Boys and Girls Club staff member reads to a child in Glassboro.

In addition, the academy will provide internship and employment opportunities as well as provide mentoring and college application assistance to students who want to enter college education programs.

The Boys and Girls Clubs in New Jersey serve more than 70,900 youth through membership and community outreach at 64 Club sites in 30 cities. For more information about the clubs, or to volunteer, go to bgcnj.org

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