EAST ORANGE, NJ — East Orange Mayor-elect Ted Green stopped by Fresh Start Academy Middle School on Wednesday, Nov. 22, to help Akeem Cunningham and Casim Gomez Jr. of the Young Professionals of East Orange group hand out Thanksgiving gift bags to a select number of students on the eve of the holiday.
The gift baskets were available, thanks to donations from Young Professionals of East Orange, East Orange General Hospital, Green and the Police and Fire divisions of the East Orange Public Safety Department.
“It was a beautiful experience,” said Cunningham, of the Young Professionals of East Orange and Akeem Cares Foundation, who also works as a firefighter in East Orange, on Tuesday, Nov. 28. “As young professionals, we are taking our place in the community, stepping up to the plate to help bring our city together. The best way to start Thanksgiving is to give thanks and bless others.”
In addition to helping get the holiday season started off right, Green also managed to scout out some local talent, and invited two Fresh Start Academy students to participate in his inauguration ceremony in City Hall on New Year’s Day.
“We had a Thanksgiving Gratitude Presentation and all our students had the opportunity to express all the things they are grateful for in their lives,” said Fresh Start Academy Administrator Renee Richardson on Wednesday, Nov. 22. “It means a lot to us to have the mayor-elect come to our school, because it’s an opportunity to show the kids that everybody in the community is supporting them and everybody is rooting for their success because, as we know, children are our future and, without them, we are nothing, because they are the legacy that we leave behind.
“We also had an opportunity to receive donations from the fire department and the police department and Mayor-elect Green also contributed and he came in and he shared words of encouragement with our students and it really means a lot, because we try to instill in our students that it’s not always what you receive. Every little bit helps, so you should always be looking for ways to contribute in your own small way.”
Green agreed with Richardson and said he’s really looking forward to having the two students at his inauguration, including Tahisha Price, who read her original poem about friendship during the Thanksgiving Gratitude Presentation program.
“We teach the kids to be genuine, be your authentic self and, whatever that self is, we will help you to become your best self,” Richardson said. “The content of her poem was excellent. It talked about friends being loyal to each other. It talks about friends encouraging each other, so that even when you’re down on yourself, you always have your friends to build you up. And it was great for her to actually share these words from her heart. Instead of us telling her what to say, she was able to share her own thoughts and feelings with her peers. “
Green said he was just grateful for the chance to appear at Fresh Start Academy and participate in the student program.
“I’m thankful, at this time of the year, every year and I’m particularly thankful that I had the opportunity to be here with the folks at Fresh Start Academy and meet this young lady and give some encouraging words to our students,” said Green on Wednesday, Nov. 22. “She did a wonderful job with her poem. To me, all these kids are our family and our future and I’m just thankful for them, on this day before Thanksgiving.”