The Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) voted to allocate funds for the Meal Swipe for Charity initiative to the New Brunswick organization Youth Empowerment Club at Thursday’s meeting. The assembly passed two new pieces of legislation as well, addressing the meningitis B outbreak and better access to open textbooks.
Other organizations considered were Engineers in Action, a group that builds bridges in developing nations, and GlobeMed, an organization which aids people living in poverty worldwide.
The Youth Empowerment Club won in a 32-12-2 vote, with Engineers in Action receiving 12 votes, while GlobeMed received two. Two voters in the assembly choose to abstain from voting.
Youth Empowerment Club works closely with Youth Empowerment Services (YES), a non-profit organization located in New Brunswick. The club's mission is similar to that of YES, according to its website. Youth Empowerment Club seeks to provide educational opportunities to at-risk New Brunswick youth, said Paisley Payne, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, who spoke on behalf of the group.
“Youth Empowerment Services is a non-profit in downtown News Brunswick that has various programs that aid at-risk children in New Brunswick. The way that we help them is that we run a program called A2E. A2E is a program that utilizes Rutgers volunteers, and we help the kids with math and reading,” Payne said.
The program currently runs from first to fourth grade, though the Youth Empowerment Club would like to extend the program to fifth grade, said Sohil Ardeshna, a School of Arts and Sciences junior who co-presented with Payne.
Data shows that the program may be quite needed in the New Brunswick area, considering that New Brunswick High School (NBHS) had a graduation rate of 70 percent in 2018, according to U.S. News and World Report. New Jersey had a significantly higher mark in 2018, with a graduation rate 90.5 percent, according to an article by NJ Advance Media.
The program has had an impact, Adeshna said. The students who are in the program perform at higher levels than similar students who are not in the program, despite beginning at a lower level of reading.
“We measured developmental reading levels, which are basically the reading levels at the beginning of the year, and at the end of the year. For third and second grade, the students at the elementary school who are in our A2E program have improved more than the students who are not in our program. Overall, we’ve been tracking these statistics for about three years now, and every year it tends to show that our program helps kids learn better than the kids who are not in our program,” Adeshna said.
YES is currently running a $21,000 deficit. Without the money from Meal Swipes for Charity, Payne said, programs from the organization may have to be cut.
“We don’t want YES to have to cut programs. YES has a great outreach in the New Brunswick community, and we want them to keep these programs, which is what we feel like Meal Swipes for Charity can help us do,” Payne said.
Other passing legislation for the night included a meningitis vaccination promotion by RUSA’s Public Relations (PR) Committee. The goal of the legislation is to promote Rutgers Student Health-ran vaccination clinics.
The legislation comes as a result of a recent meningitis outbreak at Rutgers. The symptoms of the disease, if untreated can lead to possible limb loss, disability and death, according to an email advisory sent by the University.
“We urge you to take this health advisory seriously. Meningitis B can be deadly within hours or days of getting sick. It can also lead to severe disabilities, such as loss of limbs,” the email stated.
Monsef Oukil, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore and off-campus representative for RUSA, spoke about the details of the legislation.
“What we’re going to be doing is basically providing information on different clinics you can go to. We’re also going to be making sure that students know that it is important to have renewed vaccinations while you are in school. Phone numbers for different clinics around campus will be provided, in order for students to know what to do,” Oukil said.
RUSA also voted to provide funds to the Open and Affordable Textbooks Program.The Daily Targum reported in February that the bill would aim to increase the amount of open textbooks in the classroom.
“The idea here being that it lowers the barrier, it lowers the cost of entry to universities, especially during the formative years when students aren’t sure what their major is or what they’re interested in,” said Julien Rosenbloom, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore and legislative affairs committee chair of RUSA, according to the article.