EAST ORANGE, NJ - Rachel Rosenberg and Jake Ferrans have been friends for as long as they can remember, both raised in families that put a premium on community service.

The besties came up with a project to instill values and a love of reading in young children: they  introduced ‘Fun With Reading’ at the East Orange YMCA’s preschool in September. Twice a month, Ferrans and Rosenberg present a lesson around a theme, choosing a book and activities that reinforce it.

“This program has had a huge impact on the children, and has given them a new-found love of books,” East Orange YMCA After School and Program Director Kim Winslow said. The children can’t wait to tell their parents what they’ve learned, she said.

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Ferrans and Rosenberg, who both turn 13 this month, received the East Orange YMCA 2018 Youth of the Year Award at the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges’ annual awards dinner on April 11. The East Orange YMCA is one of seven branches of the Metro YMCA.

“When we found out that we won the award, we were very happy and very proud of our work at the YMCA,” Ferrans said. Rosenberg added, “We are hoping to instill laughter and self confidence by creating a fun environment where children can learn.”

The Livingston residents are most proud of the lesson they taught at Thanksgiving time. In addition to a story, they created turkey puppets and taught the children a song and dance, all geared at helping them understand the concept of gratitude.

The Heritage Middle School seventh graders are both involved in sports: Rosenberg plays softball while Ferrans enjoys lacrosse and basketball. One thing they do not have in common? A love of science. Rosenberg is fascinated by DNA and hopes to become a doctor or teacher. Science is Ferrans’ least favorite subject; he prefers social studies and wants to become a lawyer.

Rosenberg lives with her parents, two brothers and a puppy named Lizzy. Ferrans lives with his parents and sister.

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ABOUT THE Y

Established in 1885, the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges invests in its diverse communities to promote wellness, safety and quality of life for children, adults and seniors. Its seven branches in East Orange, Livingston, Maplewood, Hackensack, Hardyston, Stillwater and Wayne are committed to nurturing the potential of kids, promoting healthy living and fostering a sense of social responsibility through an array of programs. Some 35,000 people belong to the Metro Y, which awards more than $2.8 million annually in direct and indirect financial assistance.