Since its creation, the South Jersey Youth Alliance (SJYA) has been providing valuable programs and spiritual guidance to children throughout South Jersey. Founded by pastor Preston Centuolo and Adam Bruckner, SJYA has focused on incorporating Christian values and spiritualism into their programs. These programs include speaking at schools, mentoring, recreation, group development services, internships, residential programs and their unique “Restart” program.
Originally developed to help feed homeless men and women of Philadelphia, the program now serves nearly 250 homeless men and women in front of the Free Library every Monday afternoon. In additional to making hot meals available, the program also provides government-issued state IDs and birth certificates to those who are without them.
“In February 2002 I began bringing food down to the men and women in Center City Philadelphia” says co-founder Adam Bruckner. “I found that there were capable men who were wanted to work, but were unable to get jobs because they had no identification. It was a vicious cycle; they could not get ID because they didn't have any ID.”
The SJYA also offers a residential program that provides guidance and homes to homeless teens and young adults across South Jersey. This particular program works as a step-by-step process that includes counseling, mentoring, education and spiritual guidance. The program also makes it a point to work with the parents and help them provide a safe, productive, spiritual environment for the child. Usually running around nine or eighteen months in length, the SJYA is currently trying to expand the program by adding additional staff and training methods to it.
Perhaps one of SJYA’s most popular programs is “Hoops,” held on Tuesday and Thursday nights from 6-8pm at 3rd and Plum streets in Vineland. Here, teams from all over South Jersey meet and play pick-up games of basketball to help keep children off the streets and in a safe environment. Each year the SJYA holds its annual “3 on 3 Tournament” where the best pick-up teams of the year compete for trophies and awards. It has become a community event, attracting not only teams of three, but their friends and families as well.
Reaching out to students is also a major part of SJYA, as their founder and pastor Preston Centuolo is the leading speaker of their school assembly program. This program does pretty much what it says, as Centuolo and others give 30-35 minuet assemblies at schools through out South Jersey. The program is broken down into two separate parts. SJYA’s Character Complex program focuses mainly on elementary school aged children. This part of the program focuses on teaching young children the importance of key virtues such as kindness, responsibility, respect and honesty. SJYA’s more broad assembly program, naturally titled the SJYA Assembly Programs, is a broader based assembly aimed towards children of all ages. This program offers more insight to students about the trials and tribulations of life and how to succeed and full fill their dreams. While these assemblies are offered both in private and public schools, the SJYA hopes to expand their subject matter to drama, group games, and other fun aspects for youth participation.
SJYA also offers group leadership programs to help train those who maybe in leadership positions both in and out of the work place. While the outline of this program is a bit broad, its main focus is to allow those working the program to maximize their leadership capabilities and lead by example.
Perhaps the one fabric that ties all these programs and efforts together is mentoring. At the end of the day the underlying goal of the SJYA is to mentor children and young adults so they may realize their potential and live fulfilling lives. Not to be out done, SJYA’s mentoring program is probably its most prevalent if not important one of all. Consisting main of young adult volunteers, SJYA’s mentoring program sends it’s mentors out to school’s all across the South Jersey community to provide guidance to those students in need.
Volunteering is a major part of SJYA, whether it’s mentoring students, speaking at assemblies, reffing the weekly b-ball games or just providing a helping hand to a troubled youth, SJYA takes all comers. Along with physical help from volunteers and SJYA members, there are many resources available to both teens and parents on their Web site, sjya.com, under the “Resources” header.
For information on upcoming events, how to volunteer, or how to get involved with the South Jersey Youth Alliance, go to their Web site at sjya.com or call 888-480-SJYA (7592).