The column that says if our good buddy, Steven Paul, executive director of Bridgeton Main Street, doesn’t fully understand what Melissa Helmbrecht Kappeler means to the city of Bridgeton, then nobody does, because we suggested to him to use the facade program to put a functional sign on the Ashley-McCormick building that reads “Hope Loft,” pointing to the third floor where Kappeler works her magic with the backing of the Pascale Sykes Foundation currently earmarking $40,000,000 to spur the economy in Cumberland, Salem, Gloucester and northern Atlantic counties, and billionaire Bob Carr and his Give Back program that has already earmarked 100 scholarships up to $20,000 per year for students maintaining a 3.0 average, so does she want a sign?
By Jack Hummel
Radio: 92.1 FM WVLT Saturdays noon to 2 p.m.
U.S. Army: RA13815980
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What is it you don’t understand, people?
Is it you don’t believe the late Pascale Sykes told his sister to give his fortune away by helping people?
Is it you don’t understand why a billionaire would target Bridgeton and Cumberland County to make his Give Back program crucial in raising the worst education statistics in New Jersey?
Are you so jaded, have so totally given up on Bridgeton that one program after another being announced is met with blah blah, blah …?
First history lesson:
Melissa Helmbrecht Kappeler is responsible for starting a program that enables foster children to not only experience college four to six weeks every summer for four years, but gives them scholarships so they can go right on to Rowan.
It’s called First Star and her husband, Wally, Maurice River School Superintendent, runs the program.
Do you have any idea how horrible the stats are for foster children?
A little insight
Sept. 21, 2016
Saturday mornings on college campuses are typically quiet, but as I walk into Science Hall at Rowan University in Glassboro, I am bombarded with shouting and commotion.
The controlled chaos throughout the room is a product of the First Star Rowan Academy, a college-prep program for foster youth, designed to help students reach academic and personal success.
Ping-pong balls fly as students attempt to knock over a rival group’s tower of red cups. Four separate groups work quickly as cups topple over and are re-stacked. Shrieks erupt as program director Wally Kappeler yells, “Stop! Let’s see if anyone’s tower is still standing …”
“It may not look like it, but this activity’s all about team building and communication,” Jesse Beitler, assistant program director of the First Star Rowan Academy, tells me.
First Star is a four-year rigorous college-prep program for foster youth designed to improve educational outcomes and ensure college attainment. Universities across the U.S. have their own First Star academies, implementing various models and initiatives to suite their students’ specific needs. The Rowan Academy launched 2014, and is currently entering its third year as a 30-student cohort.
The academy meets for four to six weeks each summer at Rowan University, then meets at least monthly on Saturdays throughout the year.
“When we have the kids over the summer, they’re remarkable. You see energy and excitement. It seems to fizzle when you get into the mundane pattern of school, so we meet with them at least once a month on Saturdays doing different activities. We’re constantly in their lives,” Kappeler said.
I’ve joined the first reunion since the summer session, and plans flutter for the new school year.
“We’re going into our third school year together and we want to increase their leadership potential, and develop a speaker series,” Kappeler said.
These leadership activities involve speaking at a state board of education meeting, teaching the youth to work in committees and developing a service project in Orlando next summer.
The Rowan Academy’s aim is to generate academic success, teach life-skills, promote stability and foster community supports in the lives of the youngsters, with the ultimate goal of college attainment.
Each month, the program’s meeting has a specific focus, such as test-taking skills or socio-emotional developments related to coping mechanisms or de-escalation strategies. The Academy also conducts case management meetings with Rutgers University Law School interns.
“Then we get back to the fun. We end with a team activity, and they seem to really love that … they’re a tight-knit family now because we’ve had the cohort for so long,” Kappeler said.
Other recent and upcoming events throughout the school year include a Phillies baseball game, camping trips and support of a local 5K run.
Beyond the developmental components of the First Star model, the Rowan Academy focuses on creating lifetime networks of support for the participating youth and their families, both natural and foster.
The Academy has partnered with the Family Strengthening Network to identify adults in the youth’s lives and create “Family Action Plans” to provide youth with long-term support.
“We help families to self-identify goals that will help them advance. Give them support to help raise children, get insurance or find transportation to work. Whatever they need … we’re in the home trying to support the entire family,” Kappeler said.
Typically, the First Star program model starts with children in the same grade, and follows them through the program from the beginning of ninth grade through the summer after their senior year of high school. The Rowan Academy students range from seventh grade to high school seniors, raising some additional challenges, particularly with academic supports, but also provides a rich environment to develop sibling-like supports.
“It’s been great to have that mixed cohort. I see so many benefits to it,” Kappeler said.
As my day with the Rowan Academy continues, the students and program staff shift to focus on action plans: short- and long-term goals for the upcoming school year.
“We want to be proactive to everything. We’re connecting the dots to every person in your life,” Beitler told the group. “We have a team of people in our office that are willing, able and ready to help.”
“These people invest in you because you are worth it, more than worth it,” said Melissa Helmbrecht, executive director of Court Appointed Special Advocates of Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem Counties in New Jersey.
As the students work quietly to complete their action plans and program staff roam the classroom to help, I learn something incredible. Each student was recently granted a full college scholarship to attend a New Jersey institution of higher education, courtesy of the Give Something Back Foundation.
“The day the kids got the scholarships, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. They had a chance to say what it meant to them. It’s an opportunity for them, the fog has risen and an incredible path now lies ahead,” Beitler said.
The Rowan Academy is implemented by the South Jersey First Star Collaborative, which is funded by the Pascale Sykes Foundation, and serves foster youth from Gloucester, Cumberland, and Salem Counties in New Jersey. The Collaborative is a partnership between First Star, Rowan University, Court Appointed Special Advocates, United Advocacy Group, Community Treatment Solutions and Rutgers University Child and Family Law Clinic.
— Devon Ziminski
Why aren’t Commissioners Joe Sooy and Lynne Porreca-Comparri putting a stop to fears that Millville is going down the drain because of a videoed beating?
A similar incident was videotaped in Salem and we have a witness that saw at least 7 on 1, a girl, deep into the Second Ward in Bridgeton, and we’re not even sure it was ever reported.
Add to that a girl who was nearly stomped to death on her face on Church Street, in Bridgeton, and the police did probe that.
The 5% who have lost their way can never, ever take over the other 95% without the permission of that 95%. But we don’t want stories on the victims as reporters walk down the street.
We want to hear from the perpetrators, the ones running amok periodically on 2nd, Third and Fourth streets. What those arrested are telling the police, if anything, in interviews. Who is on Dock Street?
Give us a clue, Chief Jody Farabella, as to what is happening in the ‘hood. We can’t fix it until we know what is going down and why it is going down, because the woman who runs the community center in town with attendees who are afraid to drive through Millville needs to know.
We could sleep overnight on a bench on High Street without fear of being harmed because the police are so near, but not Dock Street where the library is located, and not North 2nd, Third and Fourth streets because it is a poverty-stricken community that festers and breeds drugs, crime and gunfire.
Do you want Michael DeLeon, founder of Steered Straight who has a weekly program on SNJ Today television, to go in? Can he interview the suspects, given that some are from Bridgeton? Will you go with him, Rev. Wilkins, or have you already met and understood them?
MICHAEL DELEON IN KALAMZOO, MICHIGAN.
DeLeon goes all over the country speaking to students, but nobody here wants to spend a nickel to see if he can make a difference with THEM, THOSE PEOPLE, THAT SECT YOU CALL SCUM, if for no other reason than fear.
How is it that so many programs have been started to help those in the county jail, kids of those in the county jail, poor kids who want to go to college, kids who want to play basketball, kids who need help with their homework, kids who can experience summer camp and go swimming, and Shaun Connors, of SHINE, is the only one lying awake at night because she is embedded in the problem areas and can only touch the tip of the iceberg?
How is that?
How is it that these neighborhoods are simply recycling poverty?
How is it they only called Dottie Wilkerson a respectful “Miss Dottie?”
And, Chief Farabella, how many of those arrested grew up here, went to school here, played winning football here, or are they from elsewhere and heard Millville is pure vanilla when it comes to selling drugs?
Can you educate us?
Former Bridgeton High football coach and Millville resident Pete Bybel has passed away from a massive heart attack, and the memories come flooding back.
Bridgeton Area Rocket Club (BARC) launch at Rabbit Hill Farm in Shiloh. Set-up begins at 9:30 a.m. Pads open at 10 a.m. Visit the BARC website’s Launch Day page ( https://barc775.wordpress.com/launch-day/ ) for map, and last-minute updates.
Base flights to 5,500 feet., extended flights to 8,000 feet. (coord. in real-time with PHL Radar Approach Control),
— Mike Zapolski Sr.
Why would a candy store on the Ocean City boardwalk ask for ID from someone buying salt water taffy?
Woman at Shiloh Post Office buying stamps:
“Is that farm market up the road ever going to open again? It looks rundown.”
We kept telling Kenny Austin that he needs to dress up Rottkamp’s. We though that new, blue building was going to be the selling site, but they put bales in there instead.
Kenny painted the current sign over the market, so we had to tread lightly since we see once in a while at DiLisi’s.
Sweet corn guaranteed by June 25.
Despite spinal stenosis, we’re down 70 pounds since Aug. 13. By the time personal trainer Eddie Williams comes on 92.1 FM with us on June 10, our whole body may be a weapon.
We did it with Wendy’s, DiLisi’s, Texas Roadhouse and reading a lot of obituaries on Facebook. And hunger pains. Only once have we had three Dunkin’ Donuts’ glazed donuts.
DiLisi’s white personal pizzas once in a while. Otherwise, nuthin’ but grilled chicken salads at all three places, plus Mama Mia’s in Salem. We have eaten an acre of lettuce.
If we put it back on, it will only speed up using the crematorium.
Smoking that signature pipe has already cut 10 years off.
“Love my hometown, but it’s just sad reading these posts!
“Folks’ hearts are definitely cold out here! A friend gets killed, someone you know dies or gets hurt severely, a hometown resident goes missing, and if you post in support of the victim, FB first thoughts are ‘You’re doing it for likes.’
“It’s probably hard for heartless people to comprehend that there are humans out here who genuinely still care for other humans (especially from their hometown) and just happen to use social networks as a tool for venting and spreading awareness!
“Went on a Facebook break after my brother got killed for this reason alone! Come back for Mother’s Day to see the ignorance continue! Think I might just need to create a whole new Facebook page!
“Much love to the people who still love.”
— Bryan Real,
Takes A Village
From Alex Calabrese, the bard of Buena
“For many secular people today, we live in a disenchanted universe without meaning, purpose, or direction. We are aware only of what it is not. Seldom do we enjoy what it is.”
-— Richard Rohr
How did he ever escape Bridgeton?
So sad to see AHOME headquarters boarded up on Main Street in Millville, proving you can’t rebuild a neighborhood one house at a time. It takes community redevelopment with local investment so well-planned that a return on the money is guaranteed.
“I refuse to believe there is no hope for Millville. First and foremost I have the hope of Jesus Christ with whom all things are possible!
“There are some amazing things happening in Millville! Every day after school, 50 kids come to the SHINE program at First United Methodist Church. We do homework, have a snack, have Bible lessons, do mission projects and so much more.
“I know over at Cornerstone church they provide meals for children. Every Saturday morning, a gentleman named John brings meals to the city liquor parking lot passing them out to whoever needs one.
“Let’s not forget the people that work tirelessly to provide programs that restore the lost hope of families that struggle. Connecting Families to Communities/Shannon St Clair. Neighborhood Alliance/Kim Ayers and Heather Santoro.
“I could mention so many people who pour everything they have into this community. Code Blue, PAL and all the officers that volunteer to invest in our children. How about Bethel Church feeding our community, Help and Hope food pantry, Trinity church feeding those in need every Sunday. Glasstown church leading Adopt-A-Block.
“There is plenty of hope for Millville. We can all point out the problems. We know about the broken, the gangs, the drugs, the prostitution. We know the violence.
“WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO? EVERYONE NEEDS TO INVEST IN THIS COMMUNITY! I’m not talking about money, what about time? Volunteer opportunities are everywhere.
“So few do, so many complain. I am sure every program mentioned needs your support. I can speak for certain that SHINE needs help! 50 children pre-K through high school, most days last week we ran with eight volunteers.
“The need is unimaginable. We can never go back to what was, but where do we go from here? What will you do to be part of a positive change for Millville?”
— Shaun Connors,
Shaun has 50 kids learning life is not just four square blocks. Same with the leaders of other programs.
YOU CAN BOOK IT: “Here’s what we can tell you …” is what we want to hear from investigators.