School Counts! Program to Promote Success

10/24/02


By Dr. Kenneth Ender, President

Who would have thought in August 1999 that a group of Cumberland County business CEOs, school superintendents, government officials and college educators could establish a program that would bring momentum to the entire state of New Jersey?

Well, through the gifted leadership of these people, this innovative program has been established. It’s called School Counts!

Through School Counts!, high school students can earn a certificate every year indicating that they are workforce ready. More than 450 participating area businesses give these students the edge as job applicants, since they possess characteristics businesses seek for productive employees. And students who earn four School Counts! certificates will also be eligible for a scholarship to attend Cumberland County College.

Through the efforts of local leaders, the School Counts! program has established itself in Cumberland County, and it’s now beginning in six different counties across the state. Just last week Assemblyman Nick Asselta submitted legislative language that would help assure scholarships to local county colleges for high school graduates with four consecutive School Counts! certificates. School superintendents - Dr. Clarence Hoover, Vineland School District; Dr. Larry Miller, Millville School District; Dr. Geraldyn Foster, Bridgeton School District; Robert Bumpus, Cumberland Regional School District; and Don Schreiber, Cumberland County Technical Education Center - led the way for implementing School Counts! in our public high schools.

More than 450 business leaders are supporting the program by giving certificate holders an opportunity to secure that valuable first job. And the gift of family funds -from Sidney and Lucette Brody, Shirlee and Bernard Brown, the Galetto Family Foundation, David and Velda Levitsky, Jo and William Milam and other community leaders - has provided a financial foundation that will enable local high school graduates to pursue a college education.

These leadership gifts are treasures. They speak of everything right in our community. Being positive. Making a difference. Believing in the power of community-based initiatives. Believing in each other. It’s easy to be the cynic in the room. Nothing much is required for a negative attitude. Unfortunately, we see far too much of this.

On the other hand, it’s tough to be the leader of positive change. It requires risk, persistence, willingness to trust others, and an uncompromising belief in the goodness of our neighbors.

The leadership of those who have helped School Counts! evolve as a model program for promoting success should not be underestimated. It speaks to the tradition of our past and the hope for our future. We should value these gifts, and say thanks to all who have stepped forward to provide them.