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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Program Coordinator Kelly Holzli Visits Local Day Care Center



Kelly Holzli, Coordinator for Project Launch Newton, recently visited the Little Sprouts Early Learning Center to read several children’s books as part of the center’s Celebrity Reader program. “It was a wonderful opportunity to read to the Little Sprouts children today!” said Holzli. “Their eager expressions and earnest questions were heartwarming.  They made me feel like I really was a celebrity!”

The Little Sprouts Early Learning Center is operated by Project Self-Sufficiency, a local non-profit agency which offers a wide variety of services to families in northwestern New Jersey.  The daycare and preschool facility features separate classrooms for each age group, from infants through those entering preschool.  Fully-qualified teachers are available in each classroom and the child-teacher ratio adheres to or exceeds state standards.  In addition to the sparkling classrooms, there is an all-purpose room for active indoor play and parent presentations, as well as a sick room for those children who may fall ill during the day.  The center is equipped with two separate playgrounds, one for younger tots and one for older children.  Each room has new equipment, as well as learning centers for dramatic play, computers, science, housekeeping, sand and water play, reading, and music. 

The Little Sprouts Early Learning Center is located at 127 Mill Street in Newton.  The center offers space for 83 youngsters, ages 6 weeks to 6 years.  For more information visit the center’s website, www.littlesproutsearlylearningcenter.org or call 973-940-3540.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Sussex County Board of Social Services Provides Food to Local Children in Need



The spacious food pantry housed at the Board of Social Services in Newton supplies emergency food for individuals and families all year long.  Lately, the program has also been providing food for children enrolled in the Project Launch Newton afterschool program during the week, and offering backpacks brimming with nutritious food for 1,500 children in Newton and Hopatcong over the weekend.  The agency was alerted to the students’ need by Project Sussex Kids, the Sussex County Council for Young Children, whose goal is to bring parents and professionals together to collaborate in service to local families.  Providing the food to the students is in keeping with the food pantry’s mission, according to Carol Novrit, Director of Social Services in Sussex County.  “We are feeding children.  What in the world could be more important?”

Project Launch Newton is a free afterschool enrichment program conducted by Project Self-Sufficiency in the Merriam Avenue and Halsted Middle Schools for children in grades 4 – 8.   Students receive homework help and a healthy snack, and then participate in a variety of activities centered on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) themes.  The grant-funded program did not allocate monies for providing a snack for the children enrolled in the program, despite the fact that the program specifically focuses on nutrition as a core component of the curriculum and allows for time to consume food as part of the afternoon schedule.  Consequently, thousands of dollars were being spent to feed the students, all of whom had been at school since the beginning of the day.  

“We are exceptionally grateful to Carol Novrit and all of the volunteers at the Board of Social Services who work diligently to provide nutritious food for the children enrolled in the Project Launch Newton after school program,” commented Deborah Berry-Toon, Executive Director of Project Self-Sufficiency, the non-profit agency which administers the program in the Newton School District.

The food pantry at the Board of Social Services resides in space donated by the Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, and is staffed entirely by volunteers.  Along with a cadre of habitual volunteers, Rita Oroho regularly stops by the pantry to stock shelves, stuff grocery bags with food for patrons, and assemble the weekend bags for the students.  The food pantry is in constant need of donations, and could also use more volunteers.  “This is a ‘low time, high impact’ kind of service,” notes Oroho, citing the ease of the work and the impact on those who receive the food each week.  “We try to do as much as we can for everybody.”

Novrit commends the staff at Project Sussex Kids for alerting the Board of Social Services to the plight of those students who now cart home food in their backpacks each Friday.  “We’re feeding many of the children enrolled in the Project Launch Newton program, as well as those kids who receive free or reduced lunch in the Newton and Hopatcong school districts.”  The bags contain items like granola bars, as well as food which can be easily prepared, such as cereal and macaroni and cheese.  “Our volunteers work tirelessly to put these bags together because it’s important for them to make sure that these kids have something to eat.”  Novrit adds that the bags contain enough food to sustain one child over the weekend, and is often packed with a little extra, since many of the children report that they share the food with their siblings and other family members.  “It’s better than having the kids come back to school hungry on Monday morning.” The agency is looking to expand the reach of the food pantry into other municipalities and school districts in the coming months.  “Our mission is to feed people.  Right now this pantry helps people all over the county, but people can’t always come into Newton when they need food.”

The food pantry at the Board of Social Services is located at 83 Spring Street in Newton.  Information about Project Sussex Kids, the Sussex County Council for Young Children, can be found at www.projectsussexkids.org.  Project Launch Newton is funded with federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Title IV, Part B, 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) grant funds through a grant agreement with the New Jersey Department of Education.  For information about Project Launch Newton, call Project Self-Sufficiency at 973-940-3500 or at 844-807-3500, or visit the program’s website, www.projectlaunchnewton.org.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Project Launch Newton Students Discover an Enthusiasm for Learning



Halsted Middle School students enrolled in the Project Launch Newton after school program have created an imaginary society, complete with elected officials, a police force, businesses and civic responsibilities, as part of the program’s MicroSociety curriculum.  The society created at the Halsted Middle School, known by its citizens as Beach City, is based on the MicroSociety program created by American educator George Richmond, who theorized that freedom and responsibility would foster discipline, willpower and creativity among young students. 

“Through this program, we have encouraged the students to develop their own society.  They learn about what it means to be a society, how to earn a salary, save money and pay taxes, and elect a government,” explains Kyersten Rozanski, Project Site Coordinator at the Halsted Middle School.  “They also learn that there are consequences for improper behavior, poor investments and failure to shoulder their share of their civic duty.”

MicroSociety is now a nationally recognized curriculum that blends service learning, financial literacy, civic engagement and entrepreneurial education together by having children create a microcosm of the real world.  In this unique after school environment, participants have hands-on practical experiences planning and developing businesses or working in government agencies.  Young entrepreneurs produce goods and services, elected officials establish laws, judges arbitrate disputes, and reporters track down stories.  Law enforcement officials are known as Peacekeepers.  All citizens earn wages, invest in products and learn how to manage their savings, and pay taxes, tuition and rent.

Beach City Mayor, fifth grade student Gabe Latimer, strolls through the society daily.  “My responsibility is to make sure that everyone’s safe and make sure that everybody pays rent, pays their taxes and nobody’s saying bad words.  If they don’t pay taxes they go to court.  The Peacekeepers make sure that nobody’s talking or cursing or doing anything inappropriate.  I like being Mayor because I can learn how it feels to be able to work in government and help other people.”

Project Launch Newton is a free afterschool enrichment program conducted by Project Self-Sufficiency in the Merriam Avenue and Halsted Middle Schools for children in grades 4 – 8.   Students receive homework help and a healthy snack, and then participate in a variety of activities centered on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) themes.   Physical activities and other topics are also incorporated into the curriculum.   Monthly Family Fun Nights will allow parents and siblings to enjoy dinner and learn about recent program activities and upcoming events. 

Project Launch Newton is funded with federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Title IV, Part B, 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) grant funds through a grant agreement with the New Jersey Department of Education.  For information about the summer enrichment program, call Project Self-Sufficiency at 973-940-3500 or 844-807-3500, or visit the program’s website, www.projectlaunchnewton.org.