Youth Government Council trains leaders of tomorrow

By CHRISTINE BARCIA
Staff Writer

FREEHOLD — For young people in Freehold Borough who are interested in getting a taste of what it is like to work in government, an opportunity awaits.

The Freehold Borough Youth Government Council, established in 2012, offers students in seventh through 12th grade a chance to learn about all levels of government and to participate at the local level.

The newest Youth Government Council members were introduced at the Nov. 16 meeting of the Borough Council.

Councilman Jaye Sims, who proposed the Youth Government Council, said the teenagers who participate “learn public speaking, how to get their point across, and articulate. They bring solutions to problems and bond with each other through teamwork.”

Fifteen students are currently part of the council and each young adult holds a position/ title that corresponds with a real municipal position, such as mayor, borough administrator, borough attorney and police chief.

“Each student meets with the leadership equivalent position and gets to learn the ins and outs of that position,” Sims said.

T.J. Ray, 17, a junior at Freehold High School, serves as the police chief on the Youth Government Council. He said he joined the group because he is “interested in the government and wanted to learn more about it.”

“I think I would like to work in government in the future because I like to help out my community and being part of the government would make it easier for me to help and fix my community,” he said.

Students are required to maintain a grade point average of 2.5 to participate in the Youth Government Council. Regular attendance at monthly meetings is required.

The Youth Government Council’s first project, which is still in progress, is to make improvements to Veterans Park, Schanck Street.

“We found interest from all of the members of the Youth Government Council that there was a need for recreation. There were not enough activities in the community,” Sims said.

The Borough Council pursued a Monmouth County open space grant and received $135,000 in 2013. The total cost of the Veterans Park improvements was estimated at $270,000, according to Sims. With the borough matching the county funds, the balance of the cost was met. However, the project is not yet underway.

“The biggest obstacle has been obtaining certain New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection approvals,” Sims said.

Phase one, an assessment of the park, and phase two, the design of a wetlands plan, have been accomplished, Sims said.

“We are hoping for shovels in the ground in 2016,” he said.

Kayla Ciok, 17, a senior at Biotechnology High School, Freehold Township, said she has gained insight into government “through the beginning of the remodeling of Veterans Park and countless community service projects.”

“I joined the Youth Government Council because I wanted to help make a difference in my hometown. I grew up in Freehold and have always been very active in the community, so I wanted to seize this wonderful opportunity to be involved,” Kayla said.

She said Sims has been “amazing in teaching us about the workings of both the local and federal governments.”

Although the young woman said she does not have plans to work in government in the future, her experience with the council has given her “a better understanding of the government and the inner workings of a community.”

Sims, who grew up in the borough, has served as a councilman since 2006. He said his “fascination with government” began when he was a child.

“I liked to watch debates when I was 8, 9 and 10 years old,” he said.

Sims said when he was young, there were recreation programs and student councils in school, but not anything to engage youths.

So, in 2012, when he read an article about a youth council in another New Jersey town, he inquired.

“I pitched the idea to the Borough Council and worked with Kerry Higgins (borough attorney) to draft an ordinance,” he said.

Each student brings something different to the Youth Government Council, and they all “walk away with something,” according to Sims.

“In today’s society there is a disconnect between kids and adults with current events. I engage the kids in current events,” the councilman said.

In addition to attending Borough Council meetings and Monmouth County freeholder meetings, the members of the Youth Government Council have visited the White House and the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. The group is planning a spring trip to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

Sims credits the parents of the members of the Youth Government Council with “doing such a good job raising their kids.”

He has written letters of recommendation for members who are applying to college and for those who are seeking induction in national honor societies.

Sims said he teaches the Youth Government Council members to be informed and to educate themselves, particularly with voting and elections.

“Maybe they will come back and lead in Freehold Borough,” the councilman said.

— Contact Christine Barcia at cbarcia@gmnews.com

Photo

 STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR The Force was strong at the Plumsted Library in Plumsted Township, Ocean County, on Dec. 16 when a celebration of all things “Star Wars” was held in conjunction with the opening of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Commissioner must uphold wishes of voters

Judge Susan Scarola’s ruling recommending the issuance of $33 million in bonds for school improvements in Freehold Borough is yet another nail in the coffin for our community’s dwindling working class.

The tax increase that would be heaped upon an already overburdened taxpaying citizenry is unconscionable. No one questions the fact that some improvements are needed, but the amount requested is absolutely absurd.

The bond issuance was brought before the voters twice and twice the voters rejected it overwhelmingly. The message that the clearly expressed wishes of the voters are of no consequence is one that is absolutely anathema to our democratic institutions.

As the root causes of the overcrowding have not been, nor apparently will be addressed by our feckless legislators, it is now up to New Jersey Education Commissioner David Hespe to right this nullification of the voters’ wishes.

David Giffler
Freehold Borough

Bills aim to end preventable child and maternal deaths

YOUR TURN

PHYLLIS ALROY
GUEST COLUMN

The country in which a baby is born should not determine how long she lives. Now Congress has an unprecedented opportunity to make sure it doesn’t.

A new bipartisan bill has been introduced into both houses of Congress entitled the Reach Every Mother and Child Act of 2015.

In the Senate, S-1911 was led by senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Chris Coons (D-Delaware). In the House, HR- 3706 currently has 25 Republican co-sponsors and 29 Democratic co-sponsors.

Both bills aim to end preventable child and maternal deaths by 2035.

Unlike many of the world’s problems, this is one we have the power to solve and we have made some incredible progress.

With the support of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), global partners and advocacy groups like RESULTS, the number of children worldwide under the age of 5 dying annually has fallen at an astonishing rate, from 12.6 million in 1990 to 6.3 million in 2013.

But with 17,000 children worldwide still dying each day — mostly from treatable causes like diarrhea and pneumonia – much work remains.

The Reach Every Mother and Child Act of 2015 and the companion version which was introduced in the House in October will set important reforms into law.

The legislation supports doing more of what we know works, including quality prenatal care, management of labor and delivery, and basic treatments necessary for child health.

For the first time in history, experts and scientists agree it is possible to stop these avoidable deaths once and for all. Lawmakers should seize this incredible opportunity and pass this common sense, cost-effective and, most importantly, lifesaving legislation.

Working with its partners in developing countries, USAID has long been at the forefront of helping stop child and maternal deaths.

However, a 2014 report from a blue ribbon panel, a group of high-level business and development experts, identified a series of specific budget and management challenges impeding faster progress. These include a highly decentralized planning and decision-making process, a lack of flexibility, and fragmented data collection that makes it difficult to measure progress.

USAID has already made changes including creating clear benchmarks for success, appointing a coordinator to manage the entire strategy, and realigning $2.9 billion in funds to support a bold target of saving the lives of 15 million children and 600,000 women by 2035. This is major progress. The Reach Act will hold USAID accountable to its promises into the future and ensure that ending preventable maternal and child deaths remains a United States priority after the Obama Administration is gone. This legislation will maximize our investments, with returns measured in lives saved and healthy prosperous communities. If they work quickly to pass these bills, members of Congress can make sure that every single child in the world has a chance not to only survive, but thrive.

It is hard to imagine a more powerful legacy for this Congress and the people of New Jersey. Let’s call on representative Chris Smith to co-sponsor the Reach Act so New Jersey can take its place in history by giving all children a chance to survive and thrive.

Phyllis AlRoy is a group leader for RESULTS in New Jersey and the recipient of the Bob Dickerson National Grassroots Leadership Award for her nearly 30 years of child survival advocacy work.

Academy preps students for public safety careers

Students in the Freehold Regional High School District’s Law Enforcement and Public Safety Academy (LEPS) at Manalapan High School are striving to serve their community.

The four-year program is designed for students who desire to engage in law enforcement activities and learning programs.

Principal Adam Angelozzi said, “The academy brings in students in the community who want to contribute to the growth of Manalapan High School. They are a huge part of the school community and are active in a diverse range of activities.”

Michelle Lilley, supervisor of LEPS, said the program started in 2006 and has grown over the years.

“Our goal is to appeal to the student who wants to get into law enforcement,” she said. “That involves any law enforcement components or anything related to public safety.”

Lilley said there are about 120 students in LEPS. The first year’s curriculum covers laws and general background information; the second year delves into the process of public safety involvement; the third year’s curriculum provides a forensic science focus; and the final year (senior year) is a combination of all the classes and involves more experimental learning.

Lilley said LEPS will introduce an online aspect in the spring that will enhance each student’s curriculum.

“We are allowing students to pursue course work and preparing them for a career path they believe they want to go into after high school,” she said. “They practice not only in the classroom, but in real life experiences, too.”

Ed Wall, a retired lieutenant with the Parsippany Police Department, is the LEPS instructor and said each year is a building block for the students.

“It is a four-year program that teaches students about law enforcement, firefighting and all government-type work that relates to public safety,” Wall said. “We involve a lot of different things. It is a great program, the students seem to enjoy it, and we have been fortunate.”

Lilley said seniors may take classes for college credit at Brookdale Community College, or work in a structured learning experience in an organization side-by-side with professionals for high school credit.

Brian Boyce, the supervisor of the structured learning experience, said LEPS is fortunate to have strong relationships with organizations such as the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, the Monmouth County Courthouse, CentraState Medical Center, and more.

“Students have the opportunity to gain some exposure into different realms of law enforcement and public safety,” Boyce said. “I think it gives them a sense of purpose, a little extra focus and sense of direction in school. It is a great experience for them.”

Senior Brianna Clark is currently interning at CentraState Medical Center, Freehold Township.

“Coming into the program, I wanted to go into forensics, but the program has helped me find my way,” she said. “The (staff) really cares about the students and the teachers and staff help you find the direction you want to go in.”

Senior Daniel Gaul said LEPS teaches discipline and shows students how they can help and protect people.

“I grew up around police officers and firefighters and I knew I wanted to help people when I was young,” he said. “I heard about the program and I thought it was the best option to start my career.”

Senior Peter Evangelista said, “LEPS has shown me all the different doors and opened a bunch of opportunities for me.”

“Without the support we receive from local law enforcement and county emergency management organizations, we would be at a disadvantage,” Lilley said. “Those type of service organizations help contribute to our success.”

— P.J. Candido

Foundation will continue support for K-8 district

FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP — The Freehold Township Education Foundation raised more than $22,000 at its annual fundraiser held in November.

With these funds, the foundation will be able to launch STEAM212, a campaign to transform the media centers in several schools in the Freehold Township K-8 School District, according to a press release.

The Freehold Township Education Foundation is a nonprofit foundation that was created to raise money to fund innovative programs for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade classes in science, technology, the environment, the arts, health, diversity and other areas that are evolving rapidly in the 21st century, according to the press release.

Parents and community members are invited to monthly meetings. For more information: 732-610-7645 or www.ftefnj.org.

ON CAMPUS

Corinne Coogan of Freehold graduated with a bachelor of science in applied physics from Coastal Carolina University, Conway, South Carolina.

Lauren Van Wie of Howell graduated cum laude with a bachelor of science in exercise and sport science from Coastal Carolina University, Conway, South Carolina.

Caitlin Ramos of Manalapan has been inducted into Alpha Lambda Delta national honor society at McDaniel College, Westminster, Maryland.

Jamie Gunther of Manalapan participated in local service projects as part of the Pre-Orientation Service Program coordinated by the Landis Center at Lafayette College, Easton, Pennsylvania. Jamie is a graduate of Manalapan High School.

Melissa Rehr of Morganville was inducted into Alpha Eta, the national scholastic honor society for allied health professions, at Quinnipiac University, Hamden, Connecticut. Melissa is majoring in physical therapy.

Michael Medley of Freehold graduated with a master of science in sport management from Lasell College, Newton, Massachusetts.

Students need not be coddled on America’s college campuses

YOUR TURN

KEVIN OLSEN
GUEST COLUMN

Recently, administrators at American colleges and universities have had to deal with a rather unfortunate and, depending on who you ask, scary trend. I am talking, of course, about the issues of free speech that have dominated campuses this year.

Across the nation, college students have organized protests, staged sit-ins, and used other methods to draw attention to their “cause,” if you can call it that. It seems these students feel unsafe at school and want administrations to do something about it to make their learning environment more inclusive; they want to make sure that nobody is offended by what they hear or see on campus.

Students have requested that “trigger warnings” appear in course lectures before material which might be potentially offensive is discussed; any insignificant — even unintentional — actions or phrases that might trigger some sort of offense to someone is called a “micro-aggression” and will not be tolerated by these student activists.

Instead of challenging themselves and growing intellectually, students who partake in these protests retreat into their “safe spaces” and shout down any arguments that appeal to reason.

The problems with this sort of attitude are numerous: How are professors and administrators supposed to rid their campuses of any material which might offend someone? What makes something offensive or inappropriate for a college campus? Who is to judge this material? What, then, is the purpose of spending four years (not to mention thousands of dollars) at college if someone does not allow their beliefs to be tested?

It is often stated that a lot of what a college student learns is outside the classroom. Time management, basic social and communicative skills, and other “adult” responsibilities like cooking and cleaning all come to mind as some of the things students learn while living away from mom and dad for the first time.

But if these students are being coddled and told their feelings must not be hurt and their fragile sensibilities must never be tested, what are they learning about the world? Surely, upon graduation they will have to learn the hard truth that not only will life beyond campus not cater to their every whim and fancy, but also that sometimes people will say something they disagree with or that bothers them and they won’t be able to tell them to be quiet.

College is a place for learning, opening one’s mind to new ideas, and growing to become a more mature and responsible adult. It is impossible to see how shutting out any opinion that might conflict with one’s own — especially without giving any proponents of the idea a chance to rationalize it — can help students achieve those goals.

Besides, this is an unrealistic expectation for the future; even if students succeed in placing themselves in a “safe space” bubble where nobody disagrees with them, they will soon be confronted with such opposition upon graduation and entering the work force, or really in any real-life situation.

Instances of these students arguing for a “safe space” on campus are enough to drive one crazy.

Consider, for example, Ithaca College, where students called for President Tom Rochon to be fired after he apologized for insensitive remarks made by a speaker, while also acknowledging the impossibility of university administration preventing any and all instances of hurtful speech occurring on campus.

There was also an incident at Yale University where an administrator was berated by students for sending an email saying they should engage in discussion with one another if offended by, of all things, Halloween costumes, rather than attempting to ban costumes.

Students responded by saying the administrator’s role was “not about creating an intellectual space … about creating a home.” The list of colleges and universities mired in this struggle is dizzying and shows a serious issue with the way today’s college students expect to be treated.

This has proven to be such an epidemic that even President Barack Obama has weighed in on the topic. He, thankfully, is on the side of reason.

When asked about the growing number of colleges and universities under attack by their own students, he said, “I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of view … Anybody who comes to speak to you and you disagree with, you should have an argument with them. But you shouldn’t silence them by saying ‘you can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say.’ ”

With the President’s words in mind, it is time for colleges and universities to take back their campuses and learning environments. Rather than letting students dictate curriculum out of fear of being offended, schools should encourage an intellectually challenging environment that prepares them to become competent and functioning members of society upon graduation.

Kevin Olsen of Marlboro is a senior at Providence College, Providence, R.I.

Meredith Baxter and her ‘Family Ties’ husband enjoy reunion as Christmas’ power couple

By Kellie Freeze,

In Lifetime’s holiday original movie Becoming Santa, Holly (Laura Bell Bundy) brings her boyfriend (Jesse Hutch) to meet her family and reveals that not only are her parents Santa and Mrs. Claus, but also whoever she marries will become the next Santa.

There’s no one better to play the quintessential holiday couple than Meredith Baxter and Michael Gross, who played TV’s perfect parents on Family Ties. Baxter offers a little secret about portraying Mrs. Claus. “She may be iconic, but no one knows what she really looks like!” The actress figures, “Whoever we say she is — that’s who she is!”

The actress reveals that she enjoys working on holiday films because of the strong family storylines, but the flick’s biggest draw was the opportunity to work with her good friend.

“As soon as I knew he was attached, I didn’t even bother reading the script,” she jokes.

“The interesting thing about this particular script,” muses Baxter, “is the idea that the women of the Claus family are the ones who determine who is the next Santa.” She adds, “As light as this film is, for my character there’s an undercurrent of, ‘OK, this is serious business.’”

Baxter reveals that her favorite off-set activity was reading, while Gross spent his time with his fans.

“It was very, very hot where we were shooting and Michael was wearing a big fat suit,” she recalls with a laugh. “We had a huge fan in the green room and while we weren’t working, he would just position himself in front of it. He was this large, lumpy personage, just trying to stay cool.”

As for if she remains in touch with her other Family Ties cast members, particularly her TV children, Baxter shares: “Not on a regular basis, no. That’s why I covet those times when we can get together, which is really so sweet to see them. They’re such good people and good parents. I love that we raised good children who are good parents.”

That’s the most common question she gets from fans, too. “They want to know how’s Michael Fox. They want to know if we see each other, we talk to each other. I often hear, ‘I wish you’d been my mother.’ That’s a woman who’s strong and loving and has the time to sit down and spend time with her kids the way many parents don’t have a chance to.

“The fact that all the characters seemed to have some longevity in people’s hearts and minds is just lovely. It’s rare I think that that happens, and when it does it’s really glorious. I think people liked our family because we liked each other so much.”

Lifetime airs an encore performance of Becoming Santa on Dec. 25 at 10 p.m.