Vineland Public Schools hosted its fifth Community Action Partnership Committee meeting on Wednesday, part of an initiative spearheaded by Superintendent Alfonso Llano.
Nearly 70 city and county organizations, city officials, district staff and administrators, and representatives from school Parent Teacher Organizations (PTO) were invited to participate in the meeting to share information on programs that support, build, and strengthen our school community. This month, the committee was happy to welcome ten new members and five student nurses from Rutgers University who are currently interning in the district.
The committee meets monthly with a rotating group of highlight speakers. Speaking at Wednesday’s meeting were Jason Palmer from the Vineland Police Chaplain Division, Pastor Ozzie Heredia Jr. from Daniel’s Den, and Delizah Headley from Southwest Council.
After a welcome from Llano, Supervisor for Pupil Services Deana Ridolfo introduced the Vineland High School Virtual Calm Room, created by VHS social worker Stephanie Engle. The calm room contains various links for students to help with anxiety reduction, relaxation techniques, and other tools and strategies for managing emotions and feelings. Students (and adults) of any age can use the various resources, and the link can be found on our VHS website here: https://bit.ly/3wAInO3.
Following Ridolfo was Palmer, who explained the role of police chaplains and the opportunities they have to aid law enforcement, their families, members of the community, and victims with counseling and other services. Chaplains also assist with death notifications and crises and often refer to their work as a “ministry of presence” by simply being there for someone in a time of need. Chaplains can also provide help and services to schools through counseling services with students, extending to family members. Vineland PD also utilizes the Stationhouse Adjustment program, an alternative method for police to handle first-time juvenile offenders with minor offenses. The program provides immediate consequences, such as community service or restitution, while allowing the juvenile to avoid a formal juvenile delinquency record.
Heredia spoke next, describing the work Daniel’s Den Community Center provides for Vineland and the surrounding community. Daniel’s Den offers programs to help equip families with the tools and resources to aid them with the diverse obstacles and challenges they encounter daily. Families can participate in mentorship programs, family counseling, financial and workforce development classes, nutrition, health, and wellness programs, and creative arts programs, including several types of art and music programs. They also provide peer-to-peer mentorship and anti-gang programs. Daniel’s Den is staffed entirely by volunteers, and there is no charge for any of their services. More information can be found on their website: https://danielsdencc.org/.
Following Heredia was Headley, a Prevention Specialist with Southwest Council, who presented on the dangers of vaping. An e-cigarette, or vape pen, is an electronic device that heats a liquid pod, turning it into vapor containing nicotine, flavorings, and other substances. Vaping has been a growing issue in schools and amongst school-age children, in general. There are also many misconceptions surrounding vaping, including the belief that vaping is harmless. Because of how e-cigarettes are marketed towards young people, including a variety of kid-friendly flavors and easy to hide devices, vaping has become quite common. Southwest Council offers many resources and programs to aid in the prevention and cessation of tobacco use among young people. More information can be found on their website: https://www.southwestcouncil.org/.
Rounding out the afternoon’s speakers was Llano, who provided a summary of responses from previous meeting collaborations. Committee members were asked to work in groups at the December and February meetings and discuss how the VPS community can support a holistic approach to address violence, social media issues, disrespect, and more at the middle school level. After reviewing the responses, the most common suggestions included peer mediation, programs to help students deal with “drama,” getting parents more involved and engaged with the schools, connecting more with the community, and providing safe spaces for all students.
Closing out the meeting was Assistant Superintendent Dr. Danielle Sneathen, who thanked the group for their generous donations for our local homeless shelter. The next meeting is scheduled for May 19.