Archive for May, 2009

New Brunswick kids dig in, learn about vegetable gardening

Monday, May 18th, 2009

New Brunswick kids dig in, learn about vegetable gardening

May 15, 2009

NEW BRUNSWICK — Ten-year-old Isaiah Pendleton scraped his trowel through the freshly tilled dirt Friday fternoon until he had cleared enough space for his first tiny beet plant.
He set it gently in place, gathered some dirt around it, and moved on to the next hole.
Pendleton said he likes gardening.

“For one, you’re able to get dirty, so that’s cool for anybody” he said. “And you’re able to have fun, able to express yourself and also get stronger bones. It’s kind of like milk.”
Pendleton is one of about 90 students in grades 3-6 from New Brunswick’s city after-school program who will spend their summer having fun and getting dirty in the new Children’s Vegetable Garden at Rutgers Gardens.

About two dozen after-school students helped open the garden during a ceremony Friday.
Afterward, the students planted the first crop of vegetables.

The garden is a partnership between Rutgers Gardens and the New Brunswick Youth Services System.

The event capped off a week-long statewide event called Celebrate Afterschool! Outdoors in the Garden State, which was sponsored by the New Jersey School-Age Care Coalition.
David Blevins, community schools coordinator for New Brunswick, said children from the after-school program will return to the garden on a weekly basis to tend to their vegetables. As the vegetables grow, the students will harvest them and eventually learn recipes to cook them.

Blevins said the first-year program has a variety of benefits for his students.
“There are probably more reasons than we need, but maybe the best thing is it’s simply outdoors,” he said.
Blevins said it also teaches them about nutrition and about exercise.

Bruce Crawford, director of Rutgers Gardens, said programs like this are valuable because children — particularly those growing up in urban areas — don’t always understand the connection between the earth and the food we eat.

“I think there’s a great disconnect now,” he said, “either children think food suddenly appears in a grocery store or they don’t know where it came from.”

Friday’s event included visits from officials from Rutgers University, the state Department of Education and the state Department of Environmental Protection.

State Environmental Protection Commissioner Mark N. Mauriello told the students there is another benefit to growing their own vegetables.
“What you’re going to find is when you grow the vegetables yourself, and you get to eat them, they’re going to taste a lot better,” he said.
Friday the students planted vegetables in the cabbage family, according to Stacy Brady, a Rutgers student who will help lead the children this summer. Those veggies include broccoli, cabbage and collards. The garden will evenually include other vegetables, blueberry and bramble bushes, and a paw paw fruit tree.

Joshua Santiago, 10, said broccoli is his favorite. He was chosen to cut the ribbon tied across the entrance to the garden. Afterward, he said he felt honored.
“This is a beautiful garden, and you have lots of space to plant,” he said.

Jared Kaltwasser: 732-565-7263;

Photo byMark Sullivan/MyCentralJersey

Red Bank 21st CCLC is in the News!

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Asbury Park Press
May 15, 2009

Red Bank pupils ‘party’ after hours


For more than half of the students at Red Bank Middle School, the end-of-school bell doesn’t mean it’s time to head home.

About 200 students at the school, which serves around 390 kids in grades four to eight, participate in a host of extracurricular clubs and activities as part of a state-funded afterschool program.

On Friday, students at the school were treated to an afternoon of special outdoor activities as part of Celebrate Afterschool!, a statewide campaign aimed at putting programs like Red Bank Middle School’s in the spotlight.

With flower planting, an educational GPS activity, outdoor games and more, the event showed that “learning doesn’t have to be in a classroom,” said Samantha Maurer, a special education teacher who coordinates Red Bank’s afterschool program.

In that sense, Friday’s celebration was a reflection of the school’s after-hours program as a whole: there’s homework help and extra study opportunities, but the afterschool program also offers tae kwon do, ballet, robotics and art clubs, Maurer said.

“They’re given extra learning opportunities, and they’re socializing with their peers,” she said. And, Maurer said, the kids love it. The program started in October 2008, she said, “and to this day, I still have kids coming up asking me if they can join afterschool.”

There are more than 40 programs like Red Bank Middle School’s throughout the state, all funded by grants from the 21st Century Community Learning Center, a state-supported program created by the No Child Left Behind Act, said Christine Corriston of the New Jersey School-Age Care Coalition, a nonprofit that’s behind the Celebrate Afterschool! campaign. The group acts as a support network for the state’s afterschool programs, Corriston said.

Afterschool programs are vital for students and working parents in New Jersey, said Corriston. During hours when kids might otherwise be unsupervised, they’re studying, staying active and gaining essential skills. Corriston said studies have shown that programs like Red Bank Middle School’s have a positive effect on academic achievement, and can also boost self-esteem.

“They’re just more interested in learning overall,” she said.

The programs also forge partnerships within communities, Corriston said. Schools partner with local businesses, from karate studios to performance venues, bringing in instructors and letting students show off their skills to friends and family outside the school walls.

School principal Maria Lozzi said the program has given her students many enriching experiences, and “opportunities that they wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to.”

Part of the afterschool program’s success, she added, is that it gives kids the time and freedom to focus on activities they’re excited about.

“That way, they’re invested in it,” she said.


Red Bank Middle School holds “Celebrate Afterschool!” highlighting the importance of afterschool programs and the need for outdoor recreation. Participating in the “Nature Fair,” Erick Perez, 12, and Khalia Smith, 12, both of Red Bank, help sixth grade language arts teacher Stacy Curcio plant flowers. (STAFF PHOTO: KEITH J. WOODS)

Energetic 13-year-olds Najahee Tyler and Joseph Hoff, both in seventh grade at Red Bank Middle School, said they like the program for different reasons. Tyler spends time drawing in art club, and Hoff loves practicing martial arts.

Hoff said he’s also learned self-discipline through the program. “It keeps me out of trouble,” he said.


Friday, May 15th, 2009

A long time friend and supporter of of  NJSACC,  Yasmina Vinci   We wish her well.

Diane Genco
Executive Director


WASHINGTON, D.C.///April 27, 2009///The National Head Start Association (NHSA) announced today that Yasmina Vinci is the new executive director of the membership organization representing more than one million children, 200,000 staff and 2,600 Head Start programs in the United States.

Vinci will assume the new office immediately.  She succeeds Michael McGrady, who has served as interim executive director of NHSA for the last 17 months.

Previously, Vinci was the executive director of the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) where she served for 11 years.  Most recently, Vinci has been a founding director at EDGE Consulting Partners and over the years has held key positions in the State of New Jersey Department of Human Services, and in child care centers.  She has also served in leadership positions on the Boards of a number of local, state and national organizations, including the Council for Professional Recognition.

NHSA Board Chairperson Ron Herndon, who also is the director of the Albina Head Start program in Portland, Oregon, said: “We are delighted to have someone of Yasmina Vinci’s outstanding caliber to serve as our new executive director.    The NHSA Board of Directors searched for a top-notch candidate with outstanding leadership skills to take us into the new era we are entering into with the United States reaffirming the mission of Head Start.   I know that the Board and staff of NHSA look forward to working alongside Yasmina Vinci as we strive to take Head Start to the next level.”

Commenting on her new position, Vinci said:  “Success in early childhood education is synonymous with Head Start.   As I look at this important and challenging new job, I start with a commitment to making life better for the one million children – and their parents – now benefiting from Head Start.   I intend to bring to bear every bit of creativity, energy and collaboration I have to advance the Head Start program and those who devote their lives to it.”

NHSA Board Chair Herndon added:   “We want to also express our thanks today to Michael McGrady, who stepped in to the interim executive director position to guide us through an important period in the history of this organization.   Mike deserves all of our thanks and appreciation for his hard work and dedication over the past year and a half.”

Vinci received her Master of Public Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government where she was a Lucius N. Littauer Fellow, a Certificate in Non-Profit Management from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business, and an additional Master’s Degree from the University of Michigan.   She currently resides in Boston Massachusetts with her husband Bob Manning.

Soaring Beyond Expectations

Friday, May 15th, 2009

Soaring Beyond Expectations -REGISTRATION IS CLOSED !
May 19th, 2009

The program is full to capacity.
No walk in registrations .

Presented in partnership with NJSACC.
This project was funded in its entirety with federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended by No Child Left Behind, Title IV, Part B, 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) grant funds through a grant agreement with the New Jersey Department of Education.


Friday, May 15th, 2009

May 11, 2009

(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) New Jersey After 3, a statewide network of afterschool programs supporting nearly 14,000 children throughout New Jersey, announced the final results from a three-year external program evaluation.
The results from the study show significant increases in program attendance, enrollment, and key academic and behavioral measures, including significant gains in language arts skills for those students who participated in New Jersey After 3 programs for two years or more.

The three-year longitudinal study, conducted by Policy Studies Associates (PSA) of Washington, D.C., one of the nation’s leading research and evaluation firms in the area of educational policy, was designed to assess the implementation of New Jersey After 3 and the impact this statewide program network has on students, parents and other stakeholders.
The study helps New Jersey After 3 and its investors to quantify successes and challenges; and informs strategic decision making so that limited resources can be targeted to achieve greatest impact across the state.
The study revealed the following:

Attendance Rates:
According to the report, “The high levels of youth attendance in NJ after 3 programs put them in the forefront of afterschool programs nationally…”  On average, New Jersey After 3 students attended programs 4 out of the 5 days (81%) available to them.  This represents an increase of eight percentage points over the first year of the study. Attendance rates are one of the most critical measures of afterschool programs because research suggests that ‘dosage’ is strongly correlated to positive youth outcomes.

Over the course of the study, student daily attendance in New Jersey After 3 programs increased from 73% to 81%.

Despite slight reductions in funding, New Jersey After 3 was successful in achieving its stated goal of expanding afterschool opportunities – as enrollment increased from approximately 4,000 students in the 2004-2005 school year to 15,000 during the 2007-2008 school year.

Minority Enrollment:
Minority enrollment remained high (87%) in New Jersey After 3 afterschool programs demonstrating that New Jersey After 3 is successfully engaging minority communities and making high quality afterschool programs accessible to ALL of New Jersey’s youth.
Of the students who participate in New Jersey After 3 programs 37% are Hispanic and 50% are African American.

Academic Benefits:
The outcomes of this evaluation demonstrate important academic benefits for New Jersey After 3 participants. These benefits include measurable gains in student performance in language arts, math, technology, and improved study skills.  The study also revealed that New Jersey After 3 students scored high on key indicators of future academic success such as academic engagement and academic motivation.

Language Arts – Students who participated in the program for two years or more demonstrated statistically significant gains in Language Arts skills.

Study Skills – Students who were highly active in the New Jersey After 3 program demonstrated significantly higher scores in study skills that those that were less active.

Technology Skills – New Jersey After 3 students compared well against other students in the school with over 75% scoring ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ at using word processing programs and the internet.  Over 65% scored ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ at using spreadsheet programs.

Arts & Culture – The report revealed a correlation between academic benefits due to program participation with the availability of art activities.

Positive Youth Development:

The evaluation documents that participants reported benefiting socially and civically because of their involvement in New Jersey After 3 programs. The study revealed a correlation between academic benefits and student involvement in community service and service-learning projects.

What Students Reported About New Jersey After 3:

Most students surveyed attributed important academic, social, and personal gains to their participation in the New Jersey After 3 afterschool program. They cited that their afterschool program has helped them to finish their homework more often, get better grades in school, read and understand better, solve math problems better, write better, and use computers to do schoolwork better. Older students in particular reported that they had benefited from access to technology in the afterschool program.

What Parents Reported About New Jersey After 3:

Parents reported that the program had allowed them to pursue employment and to work full-time rather than part-time.  Parents commented positively on:  staff support and encouragement; the program’s defined structure; the benefits of additional homework help; students’ improved academic skills; various special content offerings (arts, literature, language arts, cooking, technology, etc.); and also boasted about children’s enhanced social skills.


This report fuels a growing body of evidence which supports the value of afterschool programs in the areas of student achievement, drop-out prevention and reduction in other student risk factors.  More specifically, the recent broad-based study of high-quality afterschool programs, ‘Study of Promising Afterschool Programs,’ by Vandell, Reisner & Peirce demonstrated significant academic and behavioral gains among students who participated in high-quality afterschool programs for two years. Findings from the New Jersey After 3 study indicate that New Jersey After 3 is offering high-quality afterschool programming similar to the programs described in the study by Vandell and colleagues.

As stated in the report numerous times – quality afterschool programs depend on adequate resources. In order to offer safe places for more students to grow and develop in the after school hours, it is imperative for New Jersey After 3 to sustain and grow their financial resources. Despite offering such effective service at a cost to the State that is approximately one-third the national per-child cost, New Jersey After 3’s afterschool programs are facing a very difficult challenge in the months leading up to the final State budget adoption in late June.

“These exciting findings come at a time when the State is looking to reduce New Jersey After 3’s budget by 27%. So we hope that the data presented here will serve as valuable evidence to key NJ policy makers that New Jersey After 3’s network of afterschool programs are proving to keep kids safe, support New Jersey’s working families, helping kids do better in school, and are preparing them for college and the 21st Century workforce. Now, more than ever, it is important to support programs that deliver real results for children & families,” explained Mark Valli, New Jersey After 3 President & CEO.

New Jersey After 3 will offer a public information session for those interested in learning more about these results and what they mean to the fields of expanded learning time and education. The session will occur during New Jersey After 3’s upcoming Promising Practices Institute on June 6th at the NJ Principals and Supervisors Association in Monroe, NJ.