Giving Back

Teen Inspired to Do More; Brings UNICEF to ALJ in Clark

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Maryann Makosiej, left, was inspired to start the UNICEF Club at ALJ.  Teacher Phil Scardilli, right, will serve as the club's faculty adviser. Credits: Phil Scardilli
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CLARK, NJ – What happens when a selfless young woman decides she and her peers can do more? Well, if she is Arthur L. Johnson High School freshman Maryann Makosiej, she does her research, gets support and makes it happen.

Inspired to help beyond the local community, Makosiej sought a way for high school students to make an impact on a broader level. She has formed a local chapter of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF high school club and will hold its inaugural meeting on Tuesday afternoon.

“We have Key Club to influence the direct community, but what about the international community?” Makosiej said. “I originally searched for something akin to Rotary International, but decided it was not the best fit for our
school. My online search led me to the UNICEF homepage. As I further inquired about the organization, I knew it was a perfect fit.”

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The United Nations International Children's Fund – UNICEF - is internationally recognized and the world’s leading advocate for children with a presence in more than 190 countries and territories.  The apolitical organization strives for “the protection, survival and development of children worldwide.”

Founded in 1946 to bring relief to children in Europe after World War II, the organization has brought its mission to serve children to the global community and earned the 1965 Nobel Peace Prize “for the promotion of brotherhood among nations."

“I'm certain that with Maryann in charge, the club will do some great things,” faculty adviser Phil Scardilli said. “When Maryann said she wanted to start a UNICEF club at ALJ and needed someone on staff to serve as a sponsor, I immediately agreed. UNICEF is a great organization and I couldn't say no to someone who was so passionate about giving to others.”

The club at ALJ has three goals: to educate, fundraise, and advocate in the school and the community on behalf of UNICEF.

“We will educate through means of informing our community about the startling statistics surrounding the lack of basic necessities such as food and water as well as demonstrating ways to help those in need.  In doing so, we can create a community that thrives on helping others as well as teaching children and adults alike the importance of giving back,” Makosiej explained.

She has already explored several fundraising ideas that also support the club’s educational goals.  In UNICEF’s “Live Below the Line” project, participants are challenged to survive on $1.50 or less for one week. “Race to Zero” is a 5K foot race/fun run and money raised will be donated “so that the dream of zero children dying from preventable causes can become a reality.” She’s also considering a benefit concert and will write editorials and use social media to raise awareness of the events and the club’s mission.

Makosiej said that advocacy is driven through raising awareness about global humanitarian crises and showing “how everyday citizens can be part of the goal toward survival, protection, and development of children worldwide.”

“Hillary Clinton is very fortunate that Maryann is not several years older and has no political ambitions at this time,” Scardilli only half-jokingly said. “Otherwise, I think she'd be a strong front runner for our first woman president.”

The ALJ Chapter of the UNICEF Club will meet after school on Tuesday, May 5 in the school’s television studio, Room 16.  Students will also need to register online at the UNICEF Action Center (unicefusa.org/actioncenter), then select and join the Arthur L. Johnson High School Club at unicefusa.org/highschool.

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