UNION COUNTY, NJ - The school year has barely come to a close, and students from high schools across Union County have already provided a giant assist for next year’s classes. They collected more than 19,000 school supplies and raised $3,000 in cash to help ensure that every child can start the next school year properly equipped, and ready for success.

The countywide project, called “Donate to Educate – Schools Supplying Schools” was created and carried out by students who participated in the Freeholder Board’s UC-STEP youth development summit last year.

“These young people showed a lot of character, and they engaged the whole Union County community in a project that will give a helping hand to students from families in need,” said Freeholder Chairman Mohamed S. Jalloh. “They have provided an inspirational demonstration of the great things that happen when we all pull together for a good cause.”

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UC-STEP (the Union County Student Training and Enrichment Program) began in 2013 as an initiative of Freeholder Linda Carter, who was Freeholder Chairman that year. It is a daylong summit that brings high school sophomores and juniors together from all walks of life, to practice leadership skills and engage in personal development activities.

The summit culminates in the creation and selection – by popular vote – of a countywide civic engagement project to be carried out in the spring, with the support of the Freeholder Board and other community sponsors.

The first UC-STEP campaign, called Support 4 Soldiers, enlisted the Union County community to collect “care package” items for active duty military members serving overseas. A total of 250 care packages were assembled through the efforts of that campaign.

The co-sponsors of this year’s Donate to Educate” – Schools Supplying Schools campaign were The Boys and Girls Clubs of Union County and Ivy Visions Inc. of Plainfield.

This year, 14 high schools participated: Academy for Performing Arts, Academy for Allied Health Sciences (both part of the UC Vo-Tech school district), Arthur L. Johnson, Barack Obama Green Charter, Cranford, Governor Livingston, Jonathon Dayton, Linden, Plainfield, Roselle Catholic, Summit, UC TEAMS, Union, and Union Catholic.

The campaign also included a friendly competition between the schools, based on the number of donations raised. Union Catholic High School of Scotch Plains was the first place winner and was awarded the Freeholder Board’s $1,000 START NOW grant for collecting an impressive total of 14,841 items.

UC TEAMS of Plainfield and Governor Livingston High School of Berkeley Heights came in second and third, respectively. They each received a grant of  $500.

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