By Marla Meyers, JFCS Executive Director
“No one has yet fully realized the wealth of sympathy, kindness and generosity hidden in the soul of a child. The effort of every true education should be to unlock that treasure.” – Emma Goldman, author
It is often said that compassion, responsibility to the world and the people in it, as well as empathy, are traits that are ingrained in many people. However, as a community, it is our charge to cultivate and foster more of this from the young people living around us.
The JFCS Counseling Department has always held children and families at the core of its mission to improve lives and instill hope for a positive future. This year, as part of the expansion of our counseling program, we are pairing with organizations all over Southern New Jersey to help to take our critical teachings on empathy, empowerment, and engagement in civic duty to children and teens at area schools, camps, and synagogues.
Most recently, several of our licensed counselors facilitated a
specially-designed workshop at the Katz JCC Camps at Medford, created to empower CITs (Counselors In Training) as they begin their personal journeys as camp counselors. Several of our talented counseling professionals imparted key tools and resources in conflict resolution, fostering tolerance and acceptance, as well as bullying prevention and awareness. The two-hour curriculum was held during the second week of the camp season for 60 counselors in training.
JFCS has partnered with the JCC Camp for many years in a partnership that cultivates and preserves a healthy, positive relationship amongst campers and between counselors and campers. The key to the curriculum is that counselors be empowered to handle each situation they encounter with a better understanding of the unique behaviors of children – and that they be readily able to deliver a message of compassion, understanding, and tolerance amongst all of the campers who look to them for guidance as their summer unfurls.
JFCS’s Building Healthy Relationships curriculum, an extension of our Project SARAH domestic violence awareness program will be continuing to expand this year, as well. Our domestic violence experts will be visiting more middle and high schools, and Hebrew High Schools, during the coming school year. Since the program’s inception, well over 500 teens have gained life-changing knowledge, coping and awareness skills pertaining to young people and the many relationships that they encounter. More than 90 percent of the children surveyed after these workshops have said that they were made aware about what a healthy relationship is and is not – and about the same percentage shared that they now realize that someone they know might be in an abusive relationship. So as not to miss any opportunity to help children and adults, during this summer, Project SARAH facilitator Hilary Platt began weekly outreach through her new radio show called ‘Love Shouldn’t Hurt’, held each Wednesday on WTER online radio.
Finally, during this coming year, JFCS will conduct more specialized workshops to develop teen leadership at Hebrew High Schools in our area. The ‘Repairing the World’ curriculum imparts understanding and compassion about caring for our world, and the human beings in it. Our professional staff discuss tolerance and acceptance of those who differ from us, engage the students through civic responsibility by way of volunteering and by stressing the need to help those less fortunate through our food pantry services, and other programs at JFCS.
While children and young adults have the keys within themselves to give love and kindness, it is our responsibility to continue to unlock their potential, raise their compassion IQ, and focus on character building so that they can be the best they can be. Our younger generation needs our guidance in order to choose a path of giving, understanding, tolerance, and kindness. With expansion of our counseling programs, JFCS vows to do its part on the ground, in classrooms, synagogues, camps – wherever needed – to help empower our youth as they move forward and into their lives.
Please find out more about our counseling outreach and educational programs for area youth, by calling 856-424-1333. We hope you’ll be a partner as we venture on our mission to do good, and bring good, to our community.