Helping a child through volunteering or making a donation, will have an impact to last a life time.
According to a newly released 2022 Best & Worst States to Raise a Family by WalletHub, the Garden State came in 10th among the 50 states in the US. In Education & Child Care, one of the five key dimensions used for rating, New Jersey landed first place in the nation! The report was reaffirmed by the latest rankings in the U.S. News: as a home to the #1 public school in the U.S. (Bergen County Academies) and the #1 STEM high school (High Technology High School), the Garden State’s public school system has been ranked #1 in the U.S. for two years in a row.
It should come as no surprise considering that New Jersey is among the top 5 states that spend the most per child – including spending on K-12 education.
Job well-done! Time to celebrate! Hold on, let’s take a look at the so-called issues of learning loss and low-performing schools.
Driving his Big Blue Bus through the idyllic Asbury Park, famous for its beautiful exclusive summer homes, white-sand beach and lively music and food scene, Craig Bogard is bringing students from not only Asbury, but also from Long Branch, Red Bank and Neptune, to Aslan Youth Ministries programs.
Craig was temporarily filling in for a bus driver while the position is vacant. Since founding Aslan in 1975 with his wife, Lynn Ann Bogard, Craig has served as Aslan’s Executive Director. The students riding Aslan’s Big Blue Bus are scheduled to attend Aslan’s after-school program, the Right Choices. These students represent the so-called “disadvantaged or disenfranchised” – those living below the poverty level and facing many challenges including a range of learning disabilities, dysfunctional homes, and extreme behavioral issues.
The Right Choices are small-group classes that focus on helping each child reach deep within to surpass their limitations and find the strength and purpose to succeed.
“What makes Aslan so special is we are willing to endure years of seemingly insignificant results and outcomes in the lives of our children, without giving up on them.
When Craig returned to the office, Lynn Ann handed him a text from John Hallow*, former Aslan staff who has returned years later as a volunteer. “Hi Lynn Ann, Yesterday it was difficult to conduct class due to Keith’s* behavior. He has been difficult to manage but yesterday he but he was particularly disruptive, disorderly & beyond disrespectful. He was being physically aggressive with them [other students] & being particularly cruel to Tyler*. His behavior continued into the hallway after class. Thanks as always”, concluded Tim’s text.
“Right now, regarding Keith,” said Craig, “he is one of all our children who is drowning in every area of life. It means nothing at this point to say Keith (age 11) did better on one test. However, he knifed a kid at school. We’ll tell the end story when he graduates from high school and doesn’t end up dead or in prison.”
This is one of many examples of what Aslan volunteers and staff deal with on a daily basis, but they have reaped so many rewards saving children and putting them on the RIGHT path to succeed in life.
Throughout Aslan’s nearly 48 years of tireless work, Craig and Lynn Ann have learned that there are no shortcuts to developing one’s character. They also learned that when done right, changing a life lasts a lifetime.
Achieving meaningful and permanent change requires tenacity, creativity, and unwavering values – and that’s what distinguishes Aslan’s programs from any other out-of-school program in the county.
Support our work this holiday season: https://aslanyouth.org/donate/
*Names were changed to protect their privacy.