July 30, 2018-- This week Toms River Regional Schools begins a summer leadership camp for elementary students to be hosted at three sites-- East Dover, Silver Bay, and South Toms River elementary schools. The two-week program will feature a problem-based-learning curriculum, community mentors, and activities centered on achieving health and wellness through leadership.
A number of factors including decreased state funding, ongoing Sandy recovery, and a tightening budget have prevented the district from hosting ongoing summer programs in recent years. It was this lack of summer offerings that motivated Assistant Superintendent Deb McKenna and Director of Curriculum K-5 Cara DiMeo to design and seek support for a program that would increase health and wellness through leadership principles and relationship building.
“The theme of the summer program is ‘Building kindness and empathy through strong community ties and positive relationships,’” said DiMeo. “Research shows how important relationships are to mental and emotional health, and we believe matching our students with their peers and community mentors through problem-based activities will pay long-lasting dividends.”
Support for the district’s summer leadership program includes a $5,000 contribution from the Toms River Family Health & Support Coalition, a cohort of numerous area leaders with a mission to mobilize and serve as a network that engages every resident with knowledge of and access to healthy resources. The leadership camp’s four sub-themes tie directly to TRFHSC’s subgroups and include substance abuse prevention; mental health; healthy lifestyle choices; and senior isolation, whereby intergenerational relationships can create long-lasting community ties. Several of the Health & Support Coalition’s members will serve as mentors for the leadership program. TRFHSC Co-Directors Heather Barberi and Peter Rosario worked with Toms River Regional Schools to facilitate the Coalition’s support of the program.
TRFHSC’s $5,000 donation to the program was matched by the Municipal Alliance Coalition, which consists of the Toms River MA, Pine Beach MA, and Beachwood MA. The Toms River, Pine Beach, and Beachwood Municipal Alliances frequently work together to sponsor programs in the Toms River Schools and spend many more thousands of dollars every school year, either individually or as a coalition. Their funding comes from The Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse and is dispersed through the Ocean County Health Department.
“Certainly this program will help prevent the ‘summer slide’ we often witness in the classroom come September, but more importantly this is about giving our students something positive to do during summer, when sheer boredom can be a negative influence,” said McKenna. “Our sincere hope is that the success of this pilot program will help ensure and support a sustainable summer program that we can make available to more and more students in the years to come.”
The program’s curriculum features team activities centered on leadership traits; being matched with a community partner; peer-to-peer projects, problem-based activities aimed at identifying and solving problems in the school community; and post-project reflections. Representatives from organizations such as RWJBarnabas Health, Toms River Police Department, Caregivers, Lead U, and more will participate in the camp by teaching leadership principles; serving as individual mentors; and connecting activities to health and wellness.
Since the summer program’s implementation July 30, several local businesses have eagerly stepped forward to help. Jersey Mike’s, Johnny G’s, Olive Garden, and Capone’s Trattoria have provided lunch and snacks to students and staff.
Photos below. Bookmark this feature for program updates including photos and anecdotes.
For more information about Toms River Family Health & Support Coalition, visit their website at http://healthiertr.org/about-us/
For more information about the Toms River Municipal Alliance, visit http://tomsrivertownship.com/municipal-alliance