Local college student organizes global event in one month

By JENNIFER AMATO
Staff Writer

NORTH BRUNSWICK — A young man from North Brunswick organized a competition that has a global impact.

Umair Masood, a sophomore at Rutgers University, served as campus director for the seventh annual Hult Prize competition at Rutgers on Dec. 5, when 10 teams competed to solve former President Bill Clinton’s challenge for 2015: How to end poverty in urban spaces and encourage students to build sustainable, scalable and fast-growing social enterprises that double the income of 10 million people resided in crowded urban spaces by better connecting people, goods, services and capital.

“This creates a community platform for social entrepreneurs on campus who are trying to get their name out there,” Masood said.

“The one thing I learned as director is that there is a huge entrepreneurial community at Rutgers and there is a new wave of social entrepreneurship [that is] creating an idea or a project that is profitable while solving the world’s problems at the same time, which is very powerful.”

Masood was able to pull the event together in just a month’s time, having to find teams and judges, obtain sponsors and partners and secure prize money.

His experience was rooted in a five-year internship at the American Muslim Consumer Consortium, founded by his parents, Faisal Masood and Sabiha Ansari, to understand and address the needs of American Muslim consumers and to empower companies developing products for the market.

“I’ve seen them run an event, build a network and brand themselves,” he said.

The winning team members from Rutgers University were Daniel Reji of Holmdel, David Shah of Edison, Chisa Egbelu of Louisiana and Myles Jackson of Pennsylvania. They were awarded $500 and will represent Rutgers at Regionals in Boston in March.

Following the regional finals, one winning team from each host city will move into a summer business accelerator program, where participants will receive mentorship, advisory and strategic planning as they create prototypes and set-up to launch their new social business.

The final round of competition will be hosted at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in September, when one team will be selected as the Hult Prize recipient. Clinton himself will award the $1,000,000 prize to the winning team.

“The Hult Prize is a wonderful example of the creative cooperation needed to build a world with shared opportunity, shared responsibility, and shared prosperity, and each year I look forward to seeing the many outstanding ideas the competition produces,” Clinton said in a statement.

For more information on the event, visit hultprizeat.com/rutgers.

Contact Jennifer Amato at jamato@gmnews.com.

Mosque, community members share respect

I was mayor of East Brunswick and a member of the Planning Board when our diverse community was honored to be chosen as the town in which to build the incredibly beautiful mosque along Dunhams Corner Road. All of East Brunswick should be proud that the new neighbors have added so much to our image as a strong, vibrant community that can share its devotion and spirituality with the other 34 different religious congregations throughout our town.

The congregants at the mosque were gracious, kind and patient throughout the entire laborious process of planning, zoning and construction. I have been honored to be part of their holidays and special events. I know of no one in East Brunswick who has ever had a negative experience with the congregation. I wish that our good example of inclusion and hospitality would be an example about how the rest of the world should learn to live in peace.

I hope that the rhetoric and xenophobia expressed by a few high-profile political leaders in the state and the nation won’t diminish the respect we all must share among people, especially during these holidays when the oil lamps continue to glow while others will yearn to sleep in heavenly peace.

Bill Neary
East Brunswick

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.”

Youth Adult Peer Advocate recipient has success inside, outside of classroom

By JENNIFER AMATO
Staff Writer

NORTH BRUNSWICK — Neal Gaeta received the Young Adult Peer Advocate Award.

A senior at North Brunswick Township High School with a 4.09 GPA, Neal is taking Advanced Placement Government and Politics, Literature and Composition, Calculus AB and psychology in his senior year. He has studied Advanced Placement and honors classes in past years.

He is a member of the National Honor Society, the Student Government Organization, the Mock Trial team, the Waksman Student Scholars Program to research independently the field of molecular biology and bioinformatics, the New Jersey Farm Bureau, the North Brunswick Township Youth Council and the Municipal Alliance Committee.

Neal was selected as the 2015 Municipal Alliance Volunteer of the Year for Middlesex County.

He played varsity basketball since 2012 at the high school. He has worked as an umpire for the North Brunswick Baseball/Softball Association since 2012.

He volunteers with the North Brunswick Summer Enrichment Program, North Brunswick Buddy Ball, the high school’s blood drives and the Franklin Food Bank.

Neal was employed by Suydam Farms during the summers of 2013-15 as a farmhand.

He served as a local canvasser for the North Brunswick Democratic Organization from 2012 to the present.

“I’ve gotten to know Neal since he’s been about three years old,” said Councilwoman Cathy Nicola, “As great as his resume is … his character is even greater.”

After receiving his award from Councilman Carlo Socio, liaison to the Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee, Neal said, “I’d like to thank the council for this proclamation, Lou Ann [Benson] and the Department of Parks & Recreation for all you’ve done through the years, and also Cathy [Nicola] for your support.

“And also, my family, for driving me around and for supporting me throughout the entire process.

“Thank you. I’m very honored,” he said.

On behalf of the Parks & Rec Committee, Socio said, “We’d like to congratulate you on all your work.”

Did you know …

 Jane Lynch  PHOTO COURTESY OF NBCUniversal Jane Lynch PHOTO COURTESY OF NBCUniversal NBC’s popular party-time series, “Hollywood Game Night,” is set to return for its fourth season on Tuesday, Jan. 5, at 8 p.m. Jane Lynch, who has won the Emmy Award two years in a row as outstanding host of a reality or reality-competition program, will once again lead the on-screen festivities. A slew of high-profile actors, athletes and recording stars will participate in the fun as they compete in hilarious party games. Two contestants are transported from their everyday lives into this once-in-a-lifetime night of fun and compete for a chance to win up to $25,000.

Ben Higgins will begin his search for that one special woman when ABC’s hit romance reality series, “The Bachelor,” returns for its 20th season on Monday, Jan. 4, at 8 p.m. What do a single mom with two young daughters, a television news anchor, a free spirit, a battle-tested war veteran and fun-loving identical twins have in common. They are all among 28 identified bachelorettes who look to capture

Ben’s heart. One by one, these gorgeous women are prepared to make a lasting impression.

The sweetest competition returns to Food Network when the new season of “Cake Wars” premieres on Monday, Jan. 11, at 9 p.m. Four bakers battle it out to create the most mind-blowing cake to star at a special event, along with a chance to take home the grand prize of $10,000. Jonathan Bennett (“Mean Girls”) is the host, and master pastry chefs Ron Ben-Israel and Waylynn Lucas will serve as judges, along with a special guest judge.

HBO will debut its concert film, “J. Cole Forest Hill Drive: Homecoming,” on Saturday, Jan. 9, at 10 p.m. One of music’s biggest stars returns home to Fayetteville, N.C., delivering a riveting performance that showcases live versions of all 13 songs on his third album. Also included are guest appearances by Jay Z and Drake.

Preventing avoidable 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 Reach Every Mother and Child Act of 2015. In the Senate, S-1911 was led by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Chris Coons (DDelaware).

In the House, HR-3706 currently has 18 Republican co-sponsors and 20 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 decisionmaking 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 representatives Chris Smith and Leonard Lance 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.

Having a good old time with Larry Black (the guy who is committed to keeping the rated-G in TV)

By Lori Acken,

 Larry Black Larry Black It’s near impossible to tune in to RFDTV’s Larry’s Country Diner and not want to climb through the screen to share some pie and sociability with host Larry Black and his cast of amiable characters as they crack wise, reminisce about classic moments in music and TV and generally have a fine time. The 70-year-old, Alabamaborn preacher’s son turned his love of music and rich baritone voice into a decades-long career as a disc jockey — during its heyday, the Larry Black Show aired on 125 radio stations across the country. Acting gigs followed on I’ll Fly Away and In the Heat of the Night and in feature films such as Ernest Goes to Camp and October Sky. Now Nashville-based, Black also serves as producer of the downhome Diner and its equally nostalgic companion series Country’s Family Reunion that give folks longing for the homespun days of Hee Haw new options. We caught up with Black to talk about keeping the rated- G in TV.

Country’s Family Reunion was your first TV venture — how did that come to be?

I was doing a project with [the Gaither Homecoming series’] Bill Gaither — a comedy album that he was producing for me — and when we finished the album, we were having dinner at Amerigo’s here in Nashville. I said to him, “What you’re doing with the Southern gospel people, we ought to do with the country beat.” This was in 1997, just before it just all broke loose for Gaither with the Homecoming gatherings that he does. He said, “I’m too busy,” so I said, “Then I’ll do it.” We got together 30 people and put them in a room. Of those 30 people, about 18 have now died. So what we really created was a piece of video history and remembrance. Grandpa Jones. Johnny Russell. Little Jimmy Dickens. It has been a real jewel — and we’ve continued to do them.

And Reunion begat Larry’s Country Diner?

Once we hit RFD-TV, I realized what the audience was and that Ralph Emery was no longer going to do his TNN show. So I thought this was a perfect time to do a different kind of talk and variety show. But I don’t like sitting in front of fireplaces to do interviews, or across couches or a desk. So, “Hmm, we’ll do a little Podunksville diner, and every day at lunchtime the local cable company — because they have nothing better to do — brings some cameras into the diner to shoot the people having lunch. The sheriff in town [played by National Musicians Hall of Famer Jimmy Capps] just happens to be a world-class guitar player, so he’ll pull up and bring his guitar in, and if anybody drops by and wants to sing, they can sing and he’ll play the guitar for them!”

Nadine is your breakout star.

Every small town has the town gossip. I’d gone to church with Nadine for about 17 years — Ramona Brown is her real name — and she did this little character for a Valentine’s party one time. So I went to her and I said, “Why don’t you go online and get the church bulletins that are all screwy, and you come in and do that? You can mess with people all you want as the church lady.” So she did that, and that character has just really blossomed. Her husband is an optometrist and she’s worked for him all of their married life. Now she goes out on weekends and will do 45 minutes worth of standup.

How do you choose your guests?

While we have the Larry Gatlins and the Vince Gills, Randy Owen of Alabama, there are other artists — Gene Watson, Moe Bandy, Jimmy Fortune — those guys say the shows just totally revived their careers, and have given them a new lease on life in terms of touring. I want to reach out, and help more artists who don’t get airplay anymore because they don’t have labels, but they still produce product. They just don’t have a way to get it to the marketplace.

Describe your audience.

Because we deal with a more mature audience, they introduce us to their kids, and to their grandkids. Then the kids and grandkids become fans. Also, we find that when we go to Branson, oftentimes there are young adults who bring their parents because they know their parents want to come see the show live, and they have become fans also. Our viewing audience is getting younger because they’ve experienced the same thing.

That’s a rarity.

That’s a joy. Bill Medley, one of The Righteous Brothers, lives in Branson and performs there as well as Vegas, and he said, “It’s so funny. You perform in Branson and you see these busloads come in and you watch the old people get out of the bus … with their parents.” I thought, that is so true, man! You have these 60- year-old people getting off the bus with their 85-year-old parents!

Donald Trump is not a qualified candidate

Does it surprise you? It does not surprise me that Donald Trump called attention to “her (Hillary Clinton) use of the restroom at the last Democratic debate was ‘too disgusting’ to talk about and that in 2007 she got ‘schlonged’ by Barack Obama.”

This candidate with his limited vocabulary and egotistical personality, in my opinion, is a creation of the hateful rhetoric and repetition of negative language and strategies of the GOP since Obama was a candidate for the presidency. The very first day that Barack Obama was installed as president of the United States, the assault was broadened to include the members of Congress. Never in my lifetime — I have lived over 80 years — have I heard such noxious remarks against any president by the people who represent us. Never in my lifetime has any president’s loyalty to our country been questioned.

This barrage of hate has unsettled the populace, given fodder to the lies and halftruths predisposing our culture to the acceptance of the sacrilegious and profane message that is manifested in the ignorant and bigots of our beloved nation.

Behold, Mr. Donald Trump is our leader. The GOP can be proud of their efforts and the success they share. We now have a wonderful example for the children of our country.

Alma Edly
North Brunswick

Football will never be the same — hopefully

In theaters now

 Alec Baldwin, left, and Will Smith huddle over football players’ head injuries and deaths in the new movie Concussion. Alec Baldwin, left, and Will Smith huddle over football players’ head injuries and deaths in the new movie Concussion. Concussion focuses on the startling discovery made by Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) while working as a pathologist in Pittsburgh. Omalu was on duty in September 2002 when the body of legendary Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster (David Morse) was to be autopsied. Taking the care and methodical approach he used with all of his cases, Omalu discovered frightening facts that puzzled him.

It was those facts that led him to dig deeper — even spending his own money — to uncover why this man was lying in a morgue at age 50.

A native of Nigeria, Omalu has never found himself drawn to American football. He doesn’t realize how embedded the NFL is in American culture, and as he digs deeper into Webster’s case, he finds that the sport America adores just may have been the root of the player’s death. As more NFL athletes pass away prematurely, Omalu is able to link them all together through a condition that he comes to name chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

But the discovery of the disease is not the end of Omalu’s story. He then needs to take his discovery to the organization that is the common denominator in all the deaths: the NFL. Though he feels he is doing a great service for the players and the NFL in general, Omalu is shocked to learn that the organization is not receptive to his findings. To change the world may be easier than to change the NFL and its fans. Despite the repeated attempts to silence him, Omalu will continue to fight for what’s right until someone will listen. But will it all be too late?

I love football. I played football in high school. I play fantasy football. I cheer for my teams on a weekly basis. To have a film that takes direct aim on the game I love is tough. But after viewing Concussion, I realized that Omalu’s work is necessary to positively impact the game I love.

Will Smith delivers a powerful portrayal of Dr. Omalu. I believe him in all his naiveté of the importance of football in America. All he cares about is people, both living and dead. And it is Smith’s ability to portray Omalu as that amazingly intelligent man — one who is simply unaware of American culture — that is vital to the success of the film.

Although the film does introduce us to the science of CTE and its impact on the men in the NFL, it doesn’t go far enough. My criticism lies with the soft treatment of the men and women making decisions in the NFL. At times, the league office is seen as being uncaring and a bit threatening; the film just ends, rather than offering harsher criticism of that status. But maybe I just wanted more there, and no more needed to be said; after all, this film is more about the good Dr. Omalu than about concussions.

Dr. Bennet Omalu has a true love of all people. His desire for us all to live long and healthy lives is evident, and his hope is that the research he carried out will help all athletes become better educated about the risks they are taking. I would have loved the film to be more about football and concussions in sports — the tale weaved is full of intrigue, but we are left wanting that additional part of the story.

Thanks to the research at the heart of Dr. Omalu’s career, football will — hopefully — never be the same.

Concussion
Rated: PG-13
Stars: Will Smith, Alec Baldwin,
Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Director: Peter Landesman
Grade: B

Photo

 PHOTO COURTESY OF CRAIG YETSKO PHOTO COURTESY OF CRAIG YETSKO North Brunswick Township High School (NBTHS) held a Pearl Harbor Day remembrance ceremony on Dec. 7. Pictured are NBTHS Principal Pete Clark, left to right, NBTHS 12th grader Max Maguire, North Brunswick teacher and New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) President Joanne Anderson, NBTHS 12th grader Zach Kriegel, NBTHS 9th grader Bryan Valderrama, North Brunswick veterans Joe Maroccia and Richard Pender, teacher and NJEA Pride Committee Representative Jennifer Hochman and NBTHS Assistant Principal Michael Kneller.