KABOOM! and the jon bon jovi soul foundation HELP MAKE A LOCAL SCHOOL A SAFE PLACE TO LEARN, Grow, and PLAY for communities in schools students.
Communities In Schools of New Jersey/NJ After 3 Site Coordinator Shani A. Johnson(second left), and after school students (l to r: Nadia Lawry, Migdalia Cruz, Aniya Wilson, Ajah Bell, Precious Hollingsworth, Teyana Skillings, Sabiel Rodriguez, and Michelle Rodriguez) pose with Jon Bon Jovi (center) after volunteers assembled a playground at Rafael Cordero Molina School in Camden, NJ.
CAMDEN, NJ, October 19, 2009 – Monday morning’s weather was partly cloudy and temperatures began in the low to mid 40’s. But that did not stop KaBOOM!, a non-profit organization that advocates community participation and leadership by building “playscapes” for needy neighborhoods, and the Jon Bon JovI Soul Foundation from adding a little joy to the lives of Camden school children. THE KABOOM! set up team arrived at Rafael Cordero Molina school at 5am. The first of over 250 volunteers followed shortly after at 7am. They were dressed in layers and winter garb. Their mission was to assemble and unveil a 2,500 square foot play area–complete with monkey bars, slides, and a 6-foot high rock wall—in less than six hours. Their motivation was the hope that their effort would add a little inspiration to the lives of students in New Jersey’s poorest city. Their mission was accomplished.
The idea to replace the dilapidated play area came from first grade teacher and CISNJ/NJ After 3 afterschool program staff member Jacqui Burgos. Burgos applied for a grant from the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation over her summer vacation. The Jon Bon Jovi SOUL Foundation’s mission is to “combat issues that force families and individuals into economic despair. Through the funding and creation of programs and partnerships, [it] supports innovative community efforts to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness.”
When the Molina School was awarded the grant in September, Burgos was overjoyed. Gwendolyn Corrin, CISNJ President and State Director could relate. “Our children are often on the receiving end of bad news. I was so delighted to hear about positivity—to hear that a number of caring adults were collaborating to ensure that these students not only have a safe place to learn, but also to grow and play.”
Students took a role in designing their own playground. A committee of 50 students submitted designs, which included everything from slides and swing sets to rockets, to an adult planning committee compiled of parents, teachers, and faculty.
Shani A. Johnson, a member of the school’s planning committee and CISNJ afterschool Site Coordinator for the NJ after 3 funded program said, “There has already been a boost in school morale. The spirit of the entire community has changed. You can see it in the smiles of the children and the pride of their parents and the whole community”. CISNJ students performed an original skit entitled “Dream Café” which was a real crowd pleaser.
New Jersey native Jon Bon Jovi was on hand for the play area’s unveiling and commended the students for designing their dream playground. Bon Jovi encouraged students to keep dreaming and reaching for the stars.