EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - 

The East Brunswick Human Relations Council continued their Unity in the Community series Tuesday night with a new focus: helping young EB residents adapt to life online. From writing thank you cards to conducting virtual game nights, representatives of East Brunswick’s Boy and Girl Scouts of America, along with the East Brunswick Youth Council, have been working to engage and socialize East Brunswick’s youth in a COVID-19’s world. 

     Sharon Kaplan, a local Girl Scout troop leader, and Farhad Antia, a Boy Scout bear den leader and committee chair for Pack 223, knew virtual activities would be a crucial part of continuing to engage their troops, even after hours of remote learning each day. From virtual camping events to digital service projects and online museum visits, troop leaders like Antia and Kaplan work hard to keep their scouts engaged.

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     “After the children have been online all day long with their classes, it’s definitely hard doing more computer time,” Kaplan said.

     Even so, the scouts have been doing what they can to help those in need. According to Kaplan, in addition to all of the Girl Scouts donating water, distributing facemasks, running food drives, and writing thank you cards to essential workers, a cadet Girl Scout is currently collecting iPads to get them to COVID-19 patients at Bayonne Hospital.

    “Everyone’s been taking things in their own way and trying to do troop meetings to keep everyone together the best that they can,” Kaplan said.

     Kaplan also discussed the increased engagement between troop leaders and parents.

    “Parents are looking for ways to help and asking `What can I do?’, and that’s a good thing,” she said. “It’s helped us become more of a group at large.”

     Many of the activities the Girl Scouts are doing can also be found on gscsnj.com, and you do not have to be a registered Girl Scout to join in, Kaplan said. You can also reach out to any of the packs or troops in town to become involved in a troop.

    However, said Antia, while scouting is all about inclusivity, anyone can do something to help their community in times like these.

     “Scouting builds character, citizenship, confidence, leadership, independence,” Antia said. “But you can be helpful to the community in several ways. Whether you’re just someone who’s setting an example by cleaning up after themselves...or being of service to your neighbors and people who need help. You don’t have to be a scout to be helpful.”

     The East Brunswick Youth Council has also been working to aid students in their transition to digital learning with a virtual tutoring service. Youth Council members grades 9-12 have been tutoring younger grade levels (K-8) since the pandemic hit. 

      “We’re trying to make sure we give our teens as many opportunities as possible to serve the community virtually and from a safe difference,” Jennifer Stetson, program coordinator for Youth Council, said.

     For EBHS junior Jordan Baker, current community service chair and incoming co-president of EBYC, it’s one of the best ideas she’s seen come out of the program. 

     “It’s a really good way for students to interact with each other and still have that extra set of help where they can communicate and ask questions, even if it’s for a short 30-minute session,” Baker said. 

    More information on EBYC’s activities can be found through East Brunswick’s Parks and Recreation page on the town website. Youth Council has also been working to put together virtual coffee houses, game nights, website building seminars, and food drop-off locations. To get involved, East Brunswick residents who are currently high school students can email ebyc@eastbrunswick.org with any questions.

     “It is really hard to be away from all our friends and teachers,” Sharon Kaplan’s 8-year-old daughter Emily, a member of Girl Scout Troop 80077, concluded. “But we have to stay home to stay safe.”

Catch the whole conversation by clicking on the EBHRC Facebook page here.