EAST HANOVER, NJ — Jake Ferrans and Rachel Rosenberg have been friends for as long as they can remember—both raised in Livingston by families that put a premium on community service. Last week, the pair received the East Orange YMCA 2018 Youth of the Year Award at the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges’ annual awards dinner held at the Hanover Manor. 

The besties, who will both turn 13 this month, came up with a project to instill values and a love of reading in young children, and 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,” said Kim Winslow, East Orange YMCA After School and Program Director. "The children can’t wait to tell their parents what they’ve learned."

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Ferrans said that when he and Rosenberg hear they won the award, they were "very happy and very proud of [their] work at the YMCA.”

“We are hoping to instill laughter and self confidence by creating a fun environment where children can learn,” said Rosenberg. 

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.

Outside of their service projects, the two Heritage Middle School seventh graders are involved in sports: Rosenberg plays softball while Ferrans enjoys lacrosse and basketball.

One thing they do not have in common, however, is a love of science. Rosenberg is fascinated by DNA and hopes to become a doctor or teacher, which 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.

To read more about those honored during the annual awards dinner, click on the headlines below:

Growing West Essex YMCA in Livingston Wins Top Recognition

Healthy Living Award Goes to Roseland Resident Known as West Essex YMCA Ambassador

West Orange Teen with Enthusiasm to Spare Named Youth of the Year by West Essex YMCA