Sunday, January 25, 2009

First Aid Volunteer Works To Help The Community

Child Passenger Safety Instructor and member of the Chester First Aid Squad, Jackie Leach, will soon be helping to launch a new program in Spring 2009 focused on putting an end to teen driving fatalities in the area.

Her reason?

“Police officers and fire fighters were tired of pulling these teens out of accidents,” Leach says, “We want these teens to know that it’s not just them [who suffer] because of a stupid mistake, but the entire community.”

Safety is the name of the game for Leach, who co-founded the Chester Emergency Services Coalition, which started small in 2006 but is now made up of the first aid squad, fire department, ladies' auxiliary and the borough and township police departments. Its purpose, besides sponsoring social activities for members, is to keep people informed before accidents can actually occur. Just recently, the coalition gave people the opportunity to stop in to their First Aid Squad 100 North Side Road site, to see if their child seats were properly installed on January 12-15 for free. The First Aid Squad will continue to do this from 2 to 6 pm on every first Tuesday of the month, and every third Thursday of the month.

New Jersey highway statistics are looking good when it comes to seat belt safety for babies and tweens,” Leach says, emphasizing that age does play a role in the mentality of people who decide not to wear their seat belts, “but it’s not so good for teenagers and adults, and we want to get it [the number of people wearing seatbelts] up to 100%.”

To achieve these numbers, Leach is hoping that the coalition’s next idea really picks up—an emergency service coalition summer camp.

“This is for people to see if they’re interested in being a fireman or a police officer,” Leach says, who emphasizes that it was not just her idea, but the entire coalition’s idea to start this up, “We all came up for the idea for a camp,” she says.

Along with the coalition and being a volunteer of the first aid squad for the past 14, going on 15, years, Leach also does per deim work for people with disabilities and also works for New Jersey Highway Traffic and Safety. Along with that, she also works with the Apollo TEAM, which is a peer to peer debriefing service for volunteers who might have witnessed something traumatic over the course of their work.

“If a volunteer sees a fatality, and they don’t know how to handle it,” Leach says, “We let them know that what they’re feeling is normal in an abnormal situation.”

Leach hopes those days never come though, and that’s why she volunteers in the first place.

“[Being in the First Aid Squad] makes you feel like you’re doing something for your community,” Leach says.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Recent College Grad Makes a Difference Around the World

The unedited version is below, but to see the article as it appeared on the website, click below:
Typically, graduating college means a general period of unbridled enthusiasm and then the seemingly unending job search, which can go on for months depending on the market. But recent Colgate graduate, Taylor Buonocore, actually had a job available to her once she finished school. She just didn’t take it.

“I had an internship in consulting, and received an offer [but I turned it down],” Ms. Buonocore says.

Instead, the history major, who graduated in Spring 2008, decided to spend her year after college doing something a little bit more altruistic, like traveling to the Ecuadorian Amazon and the Galapagos Islands to do some volunteer work with Jatun Sacha, the largest Non-Governmental Organization in the country.

“I was really ready to be a part of something that’s actually bigger than me,” Ms. Buonocore says.

The decision came near the end of her senior year, when she was actually offered the position after her internship in consulting but decided against it.

“I had this advisor at Colgate, and he’d always tell you to think of a solution to a problem and rate it on a ten point scale,” Ms. Buonocore says, “And [consulting at this point] was obviously not a ten.”

What was a ten though was choosing to go to both South America and Africa, as those were the two continents she knew she wanted to travel to from the start.

“I already had an idea of what I wanted to do,” Ms. Buonocore says.

South America was her first trip, and her intention there was to deal with the environment. Her parents, at the time, were less than thrilled.

“My parents have always been supportive of everything I do,” Ms. Buonocore says, “But, like any parents, they were nervous, and for good reason. I wasn’t physically harmed [on my travels], but there were moments where I felt so unsafe and scared.”

She actually documents most of it in her blog,, where she talks about her travels in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, namely one specific event called “Bringing Water to People Who Need It.” In this blog entry, she details how she dug “irrigation lanes to help a community bring river water to their village.”

“Things started to turn around [by that point],” Ms. Buonocore says of why that blog entry was particularly special to her. “[By then, I felt that] no matter how tired you are, you keep going into that dirt.”

Ecuador will not be the end of her travels, though.

In February, Ms. Buonocore will be departing the U.S. for three more months to go to Tanzania to “volunteer with the Tanzania Children’s Fund and other organizations dedicated to improving the lives of orphans in Northern Tanzania.”

She’s going to be giving them an education. And while she doesn’t have to know their language, she’s already taken out a book in the Morris County Library on how to speak Swahili. She wants to connect with the kids as much as humanly possible.

With all this traveling though, Ms. Buonocore still hasn’t lost touch with life over here in America. In fact, she still stays in contact with her sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, which actually offered her $1,100 dollars to pay for her trip in Tanzania.

“I applied for a grant and the Kappa Alpha Theta fund [gave me the money],” Ms. Buonocore says.

And then, there’s still life after her globe trotting adventures come to an end, as she still plans to eventually go into consulting.

“There’s definitely something to say about my internship,” Ms. Buonocore says, “but [just because I’ll be working in an office in the future], that’s not to say I still won’t be exploring. It will just be in a different connotation.”

New member on Hardyston School Board Brings New Hope To Area

It’s been a rough and tumble time for many involved with the Hardyston Elementary School, which faced a string of complaints from parents after beloved former Principal, Dominic Festante, lost an appeal for reinstatement after a 5-4 vote, but things seem to be getting back on track now.

“I’m pleased that the whole process went as it did,” says, Christine Clavin, an integral member of the Hardyston recall committee.

The whole process that Clavin is referring to is the ousting of former Hardyston Board of Education President, Marbeth Boffa, who would not return calls for this article.

Mrs. Boffa, had 1,137 signatures against her from registered voters to remove her from her seat after many complained that Festante’s lost appeal was a personal matter that was never explained fully to the community.

In a statement written by Sue Murdock, a parent who lives in Hardyston, she writes, “This recall, though an arduous process, serves to remind all elected officials that the will of their constituency must be a prime consideration in their decision making.”

Mrs. Boffa is only the second successful recall in the history of New Jersey, the first being in 2003 in the Woodstown-Pilesgrove Regional School District, encompassing five communities in Salem County.

Still, it’s not all animosity for Mrs. Boffa, as Murdock writes, “We would like to thank Mrs. Boffa for all the positive contributions she has made to our school district, as both a teacher and School Board Member.”

Filling in for Mrs. Boffa is Anita Collins, who has two children in the Hardyston Elementary School.

Collins, whose first meeting with the board takes place on April 29th, says that “everyone’s been very supportive,” and feels that she has a lot of plans she would like to implement once she gets fully started in her position.

“[My main goals as President are to have] open communication with the community…and new and innovative approaches to solving money issues,” says Collins.

Also on her agenda is a wish to finish the playground at the school.

“It’s my intention to help,” says Collins.

And as for former Principal, Dominic Festante, he’s currently taking on the role of Principal yet again in Hampton.

Looking back on the whole incident altogether, he feels that the parents who petitioned for him showed “pride and determination,” in their education system, and believes that everything that was done was in the students’ best interest.

“Everybody has to take part to initiate a high quality education system,” Fesante says, “That goal cannot be self-serving. It’s we who have to work, not I.”

Parkour Article Finally Published

My Parkour article (The one I scribbled down in Chicago) finally got published in the Chicago Reader and made the front cover. So that means, the story was read by ALLL of Chicago, right? A rocking son of Dschingis Khan can dream, can't he?

To check out the article, with purdy pictures and everything, click here. Leave comments. Be a hero!