SJEJA – Healthy Schools Inititative

As stated in our mission, SJEJA aims to build alliances and coalitions to improve the health and physical environment for residents of poor and minority communities who are often burdened with toxic pollution that is detrimental to their health and well being. The Healthy Schools Initiative is an important part in this overall objective.

Camden, NJ has many serious social and environmental problems. It is well-documented that poverty rates are high and the overall achievement records of Camden schools are not acceptable. (See, Camden Kids Count) It is our goal to focus on health issues in schools.

The Camden County Department of Health and Human Services is aware of lead contamination associated with schools’ public water supply as well as air and noise pollution and other environmental issues that may lead to health problems or lower academic performance. The need to educate the school superintendents on the need to test the water supply for lead contamination, and if contaminated, assistance is available for remediation. >>> more

Camden Kids Count 2004, produced by CAMConnect in partnership with the Association for Children of New Jersey, provides an exellent snapshot of child well-being in one of New Jersey’s most impoverished cities. It is clear from the data that the children of this city are suffering from many disadvantages. For example the report reveals staggering statistics of concentrated poverty: “Camden City claims the highest percentage of children growing in poverty, when compared to every other city in the state. In 2000, 45 percent of the city’s total child population lived in families that lacked the resources to provide their basic needs. This exceeds the percent of children in poverty in 25 of New Jersey’s most impoverished cities, including Asbury Park (39%) and Newark (36%). The report links poverty data to school achievement as they claim: “Poverty Sets Stage for School Failure In the 2002-2003 school year, more than half of the city’s fourth-graders failed both the language arts (55.1%) and math (58.1%) portion of the statewide tests. Nearly threequarters failed the 8th grade language arts and math tests in the same year, while more than 85 percent failed the math test. More than 76 percent of 11th graders failed the math portion of the graduation tests, while 58 percent failed the language arts tests.”

>>> READ THE FULL REPORT (41 pages, pdf)

>>> compare the Camden Kids data to national statistics (AECF)

>>> see also our brochure from a previous SJEJA Planning Conference (11/2006)

>>> read Bill Wolfe’s “Tale of Two Toxic Schools” (NJ Voices, 2/20/2008)

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Below are pictures from a well-attended EJ Conference, Common Ground, organized by Rutgers students. Many high schools students from the city and nearby towns attended the event as well as college students from New Brunswick and Newark. Many SJEJA members were invited presenters.

Rutgers-Newark student activists

Camden HS students listen to SJEJA speaker

Dr. Nogaki explains a scientific principle