No Barriers USA
SBJC and No Barriers USA Partner to Create and Implement an Innovative Program to Help Special Need Students Mitigate Their Challenges and Develop the Tools to Unlock Their Potential.
The mission of the SBJC's partnership with No Barriers USA is to fully unleash the potential of the human spirit.
As a public special needs district currently serving more than 350 students from Bergen County, it has become our mission at the South Bergen Jointure Commission to unlock the potential of every single one of our students. The SBJC vision centers on establishing a formalized system that ensures the federal mandate of Least Restrictive Environment is being achieved. Our goal as an educational institution is to prepare our students for independent living following their completion of our program.
But we know we cannot do this alone. In order to truly unlock our students’ potentials, we need all those who are involved in their lives to understand the importance of preparing students for the future. While many excellent resources focus on day-to-day skills to help students with autism, few focus on cultivating the right mindset for success. We need our students, families and educators to learn this mindset in order to break through barriers and unleash their full potential.
That’s why the South Bergen Jointure Commission has partnered with No Barriers and Felician University.
We set up a number of initiatives designed to provide our students with access to the same opportunities as their general ed. peers.
- In the summer of 2021, we hired students to work for the SBJC, performing maintenance duties (like painting and building furniture) as well as working with our IT department in preparing technology for the new school year. This was the first paycheck many of them ever received.
- We worked with No Barriers to provide Hiking Leadership Training to our 18-21 year old students. Not only would these students learn wilderness survival skills, they’d be responsible for passing that knowledge on to all of the other students in our district.
- We enhanced our curriculum and our extracurricular activities. There are certain rites of passage every child should be able to go through, bike riding being just one of them. So a team of physical educators and physical therapists designed a course that incorporated bicycling into our physical education curriculum. We also now have a Walk-Everyday initiative, where students take daily walks in the community with their classmates. And we are now well into the pilot year of a three-season athletic program with the hopes of joining the NJSIAA in 2023.
In 2021, Felician University President Admiral James W. Crawford III and SBJC Superintendent Dr. Michael Kuchar signed an agreement to solidify one of the many values shared by our institutions: increasing continuing learning opportunities for the faculty and staff of southern Bergen County in order to provide the highest levels of services to our students with special needs.
Employees of the SBJC and its 17 member districts can apply to Felician University’s undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs at discounted rates, strengthening our entire South Bergen community and allowing for affordable access to fantastic educational experiences.
The SBJC also partners with Felician University to bring premier professional development to our district. Dr. John Burke, head of Felician's International Center for Autism Disability Research (I-CAdRE), has led nearly a dozen trainings for all of our staff. For the 2022-23 school year, Dr. Burke will be serving as SBJC's Professor in Residence.
Boys & Girls Club of Lower Bergen County
Recognizing the inequality and need for out-of-school time programming for youth with special needs, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Lower Bergen County (BGCLBC) partnered with the SBJC to provide an after school and summer enrichment program at their Maywood Campus Elementary School. Over a nearly three-year period BGCLBC, in partnership with the SBJC, planned and developed a program to remedy the lack of after school and summer out-of-school services and level the playing field for youth with special needs. The programs offer a rich mix of activities including Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BCGA) Triple Play dynamic wellness program, BCGA Healthy Habits nutrition curriculum, culinary arts, and recreational sports; youth development opportunities such as social skills; social emotional skill development activities which foster critical and creative thinking, empathy, decision making and problem-solving skills; and academic enrichment activities such as STEM. The program, which was made possible in part to a generous seed grant from Lakeland Bank, serves roughly 12 kids per day. The costs associated with such a program are greater than that of a general after school program, as more resources are developed, the program will be expanded to serve more children and grow to the other SBJC Campuses.