James Caldwell High School Advocacy Club Selected to Represent Essex County at NJ State Board of Education Meeting
by Christine Corliss
James Caldwell High School Advocacy Club advisors Robin Keil and Melissa Hart join, from left: President, State Board of Education, Arcelio Aponte, club members Evan Lamarca, Sarah Smith and Rachel McNamara, Acting Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education David Hespe, club member Josh Turbiak, Caldwell-West Caldwell Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Heinegg, club member Alexis Spina, club advisor Robin Keil, club member Brittany Setaro, club advisor Melissa Hart and Essex County Superintendent of Schools Joseph Zarra
WEST CALDWELL, NJ - All students face challenges, but some have never learned to speak up for themselves. A group of students from James Caldwell High School (JCHS), West Caldwell, is hoping to change this, however, one student at a time. The JCHS Advocacy Club, advised by teachers Robin Keil and Melissa Hart, has worked with and for students, teaching them how to advocate for themselves. Most of the club members are students who face learning challenges, or students who are eager to learn to advocate on behalf of family members who face challenges. This year, the club received a special honor, being selected as the Essex County recipient at the N.J. State Board of Education recognition ceremony held on May 22 in Trenton, N.J.
Accompanied by the executive county superintendent, local school officials, family and friends, the students were recognized for academic success as well as leadership qualities and volunteerism both at school and within their communities. The educators were recognized for outstanding professional achievements. Keil and Hart were joined at the ceremony by Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Heinegg and six of the club’s members, Evan Lamarca, Rachel McNamara, Brittany Setaro, Sarah Smith, Alexis Spina and Josh Turbiak.
James Caldwell High School senior Josh Turbiak works with sixth grader Zeyad Elfatatry
To apply for the honor, school districts provide a one-page profile describing the students or teams and the reasons for their selection. The State Board of Education then selects up to ten of the students or student groups who have made significant contributions to their schools, communities or families. The students or student groups are from elementary, middle or high schools, and the achievements recognized are not limited to academics or athletic recognition. Selected students are formally honored by the Commissioner and State Board of Education at the special recognition ceremony.
Keil has been working with the group for several years.
"We work with the club members,
James Caldwell High School graduate Marissa Caponera poses with Wilson School fifth grader Helana Harris at Bonnel Field, West Caldwell
Throughout the school year, the Advocacy Club gives students a platform to tell their story. The students meet regularly throughout the school year to work on their speeches and to plan activities to meet with students who, like them, share their triumphs and tribulations when dealing with a learning disability.
The club also participates in a grant-funded, literacy-based, Student-to-Student Mentoring Program in which high school students are matched with students from the district’s elementary schools, acting as mentors to younger students who experience similar learning challenges.
Members from the Advocacy Club also attend the “Each One Teach One” conference at Millburn High School and the “Dare to Dream” conference at Montclair State University each year, and have presented to the middle and high school faculty on learning disabilities.
James Caldwell High School
265 Westville Avenue
West Caldwell, NJ
Christine Corliss is the Data Specialist and Communications Coordinator for the