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At The Vineyard Show Hawk Haven Winery – [VIDEO] At The Vineyard Show Hawk Haven Winery – [VIDEO](0)


At the Vineyard is a television series presented by the Garden State Wine Growers Association. In this edition, Tom Cosentino visits Hawk Haven Vineyard & Winery in Cape May where he sits down with owner and winemaker Todd Wuerker.
Thanks to Todd and Kenna Wuerker and their team at Hawk Haven Vineyards & Winery
The production team at NJ Discover
New Jersey Department of Agriculture
New Jersey Department of State, Division of Travel & Tourism
And, New Jersey wine enthusiasts!
www.newjerseywines.com
www.njdiscover.com

Monroeville Winery Salem County Vignette [Video] Monroeville Winery Salem County Vignette [Video](0)

Explore Salem County, NJ and visit Monroeville Vineyard & Winery and the Salem Historical Society Museum in the Garden State Wine Growers Association’s new Passport Series Tourism Vignette.

Heritage Winery – At The Vineyard Show Episode 2 Heritage Winery – At The Vineyard Show Episode 2(0)

Heritage Winery – At The Vineyard Show Episode 2

At The Vineyard Show, Four Sisters Winery – Tutorial At The Vineyard Show, Four Sisters Winery – Tutorial(0)

New Jersey wines are being recognized nationally for their excellence in renowned wine competitions and the industry has seen tremendous growth with over 50 licensed wineries now operating in the state. The Garden State Wine Growers Association’s (GSWGA) ongoing mission has been to increase the awareness, appreciation and quality of wines produced in New Jersey.  The At the Vineyards YouTube show puts the spotlight on vineyards throughout the state and allows consumers to see how each visit to a winery provides a unique experience.  Join us as we profile individual winemakers and owners at vineyards across New Jersey.  Join us and explore New Jersey Wine Country with the At the Vineyards Show.

The At the Vineyards series is funded through  a USDA Crop Grant and by the Garden State Wine Growers Association.

MY NEW BALANCE:  A GIRL ON A JOURNEY TO A BALANCED LIFE & WRITING ABOUT IT ALONG THE WAY: MENTAL ILLNESS: MY STORY      By Holly Chok  May 20, 2017 MY NEW BALANCE: A GIRL ON A JOURNEY TO A BALANCED LIFE & WRITING ABOUT IT ALONG THE WAY: MENTAL ILLNESS: MY STORY By Holly Chok May 20, 2017(0)

MY NEW BALANCE: A GIRL ON A JOURNEY TO A BALANCED LIFE & WRITING ABOUT IT ALONG THE WAY: MENTAL ILLNESS: MY STORY          By Holly Chok     May 20, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MY NEW BALANCE

A GIRL ON A JOURNEY TO A BALANCED LIFE & WRITING ABOUT IT ALONG THE WAY.     By Holly Chok 

 

Editor’s Note:  by Calvin Schwartz

I’ve expressed it often, the joys of synchronicity, networking and social media and how they can enrich the soul. Two months ago, I was a panelist at Rutgers University, “Road to Communication and Media Kickoff” as part of Career Services. It was well attended by communication students and afterwards, the five panelists continued to engage students. For me, it’s the ‘post’ panel time, which reinforces the entire event.

One of the students I met “post” event was Holly Chok. More importantly and what I’ve always encouraged when I participate in student-alumni events, is continuing dialogue, social networking contacts, and even mentoring; generations sharing and working together.

Holly and I did just that, staying in touch. A few weeks ago, she shared a link to her blog, “MENTAL ILLNESS: MY STORY” https://mynewbalance.wordpress.com/mental-illness-my-story/

I read it immediately and was mesmerized with her eloquence, bravery, honesty, writing style and willingness to give back and help others by sharing. And I thought about how a young college student was so frank and outspoken with her personal life; not easy to do in our world. It hit me after I read it again, that this should be shared with a much wider audience, so I asked her permission to share here on NJ Discover.

 

 

MY NEW BALANCE

A GIRL ON A JOURNEY TO A BALANCED LIFE & WRITING ABOUT IT ALONG THE WAY.

 

 

ABOUT HOLLY:  Hello, all! I am a college student who loves her coffee, and is devoted to promoting positive body image, healthy lifestyles, and balanced mindsets. I cannot thank you enough for joining me on my journey to wherever this blog may take me!

mynewbalanceblog@gmail.com

Instagram: @hollychok

 

 

 

 

 

MENTAL ILLNESS: MY STORY   HOLLY CHOK

 

Prior to diving into my experience with mental illness, I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to visit and read my personal story. I hope that it brings to light mental illnesses; diseases which are too often darkened and concealed from the public. However, if you find yourself struggling while reading, I advise you to stop and take a moment. At this point, I encourage you to visit the “Helpful Links” tab on this site for a list of vital resources devoted to helping you through this tough time.

Note: This posting will contain images of my experience, however, these images are not to say that mental illnesses have a certain “look.” In fact, eating disorders especially, affect people of all races, socioeconomic statuses, and physiques. A common misconception with eating disorders is extreme weight loss, however, this is NOT the case. *

If someone asked me when I began to struggle with a mental illness, I couldn’t answer; it kind of just, in lack of other words, “happened.” My family and friends can attest to this, as if you ask any of them, it felt as though the “happy” Holly was one day laying in a hospital bed, on the brink of death.

 

 

However, if I had to guess, I would say high school is when I began to transform from the typical teen to someone I couldn’t recognize. While I had always maintained honor roll, participated in sports and clubs, and had an active social life; it wasn’t always easy. While on the surface I was homecoming queen, on my class student council, and a leading member on my cross country team, I never felt as though all these accomplishments were ever enough.

I had always been a perfectionist; it was in my blood. My parents are the two hardest-working of individuals I know, and my brother is just a natural genius. Needless to say, I strived for the best, and only the best for myself. This is not to say I blame anyone for my eating disorder; so many factors go into the onset of these illnesses – factors which I’ll never truly know.

Senior year of high school, spring-time if I remember correctly, it began to really hit me. At the time I didn’t know what “it” was, but I knew something wasn’t right. For this reason, I chose to go the college closest to me, because deep-down I knew that this “it” did not want me to go far away for school; regardless of all the acceptances and scholarships I received.

 

 

 

As summer progressed, and college came closer, my stress grew larger. While Rutgers was close enough to commute, I had committed to living in the dorms. What should have been an exciting decision, was a terrifying one, as the “it” that I was talking about before, was just growing worse and worse.

That is when my habits, like “healthy” eating and exercising, grew into obsessions. If someone asked me what was most important to me at this time in my life, I would say the gym, eating “right,” and then everything else. I spent the whole summer malnourished and exercising until my lungs couldn’t take anymore; and then I’d wake up and do it all again the next day. Pounds were shedding off my body, but for my troubled mind, this was not enough validation that perhaps I was doing “too much.”

Prior to the school-year starting, I knew that something was wrong, yet I didn’t know “it” was an eating disorder just yet. However, my obsession with food and the gym was too strong for me to move into the dorms. For this reason, I opted-out, and decided to live at home. I don’t know what would’ve happened to me if I decided to move away, but one thing about living at home was keeping my same, dangerous obsession with food and the gym – an obsession my eating disorder loved.

This obsession carried with me the whole first semester of college. I did one of three things: attend class, work out, or sleep. My social life came to a halt; I can’t say I went out with friends more than once a month – if that. Every day was just filled with thoughts of working out and eating ‘right.’ However, this routine was just making me more malnourished, weak, and slowly, but surely, killing me.

As I walked out of my last final of the semester, my physical body was alive, but inside, I was already dead. I felt weak, dizzy, and barely even mobile. I felt so bad that later that night, I paid my (first) visit to the ER.

I don’t remember this visit much, in fact, I just remember being completely “out-of-it.” Nothing significant was discovered (or so I thought). I thought it was just further justification that my obsessions and habits were normal; that being well-below a healthy weight was normal. Little did I know what would the next week of my life would entail.

While at the time I was disappointed this happened “behind my back,” I am glad doctors noticed that I wasn’t “normal.” It turns out that they gave my mother a phone number for an eating disorder program at the hospital, which she was told to call and set up an appointment. I was scared, shocked, but when approached by her about it I agreed; I should follow through with that appointment.

A week later, I showed up at the ED center, confident as ever I would be sent home once again, just like that first ER visit. After all, in my disordered mind, everything I was doing was “normal.” However, when examined by the doctors, my vitals told a different story. My pulse came back at a whopping 28 beats/minute. I was literally on the verge of dying from a heart attack.

 

From that moment, I was rushed back to the ER and admitted later that night. I will never forget it, as it was the last day of 2015. Yep, I watched the ball drop in Times Square on my little emergency room TV. Happy New Year? It was pathetic, but boy, it was necessary.

From that point on, I spent a month in inpatient treatment, and further months in an outpatient setting. I gained much needed weight, but also tools to help me cope with the underlying emptiness causing my disorder. I had to take the semester off from college, which the perfectionist in me hated, but that was necessary too.

I write this story a year later; happy, healthy, and in what I consider-to-be full recovery. I still see doctors, but I am doing well for myself. My health is in order, and I have that peace of mind that I lost some-time-ago. I still have my struggles on a daily basis, but I am dealing with it, one day at a time.

I have found my new balance, which is why I named this blog as such. Now that I have reached this healthy point in my life, I am ready to share my struggles, offer advice, and hopefully inspire those reading that there is light on the other side. Mental illness, as I know from experience, is so real. However, I hope by sharing this, I can help break the negative stigma which unfortunately encompasses it.

Thank you for reading, as always.                              Lots of love, Holly ❤

 

BLOG: “MENTAL ILLNESS: MY STORY” https://mynewbalance.wordpress.com/mental-illness-my-story/

THE STRAND Lakewood 95th Anniversary Birthday Party April 26th: Reasons to be There  by Calvin Schwartz THE STRAND Lakewood 95th Anniversary Birthday Party April 26th: Reasons to be There by Calvin Schwartz(0)

THE STRAND Lakewood 95th Anniversary Birthday Party April 26th: Reasons to be There             by Calvin Schwartz 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Strand is having a 95th Anniversary Birthday Party. I’m going to get around to talking about the April 26th Party and shouting out why we all should vacate the sedentary sofa and get to the party but first……

I’ve been sitting here staring at the wall of memorabilia behind my computer screen for the past 11 minutes; it’s a writing technique I employ often; I suppose akin to Alice slipping though the rabbit hole into a new world. My rabbit hole (where I am trying to focus thoughts) is all about The Strand Theater in Lakewood. It’s been a frequent subject of mine the last five years as a journalist. Inside that magical world of The Strand, my theatrical rabbit hole of introspection, depth and purist enchantment (now with a new room, The Gallery, where you can have a tea party or a glass of wine) is a New Jersey historical landmark which opened in 1922 when Lakewood was popular with the rich and famous of the day like Rockefeller. Nearby Georgian Court University was the former estate of George Jay and Edith Gould.

It was designed to be a Broadway theater because Lakewood, back in the 1920’s and 30’s, was a vacation destination and the thinking was to bring Broadway shows here, for previewing them. And going back to those roaring twenties, The Strand was built with some of the best theater acoustics in the country. You can sit anywhere and it sounds like you’re in the first row.

 

 

 

My history with this theater has enabled me to cover fundraising shows after Hurricane Sandy; for the unique charity, Hometown Heroes; Songwriters by The Sea backstage, Arlan Feiles and The Broken Hearted live recording session backstage for ‘Live from The Strand;’ Richie Santa, quintessential Elvis Impersonator; The Strand’s annual Anniversary Gala’s at Holiday time and so much more.  Over the years, I’ve interviewed many of the staff, Board of Directors, and local politicians who support the theater.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On one of my recent memorable Strand days, I was introduced to Chris Everett (not the former tennis player) the Technical Director, Jack of All Trades, the guy who makes people fly and who puts scenery and imagination into production. Chris told me, “We make shows happen. Caitlyn Nelson is our  Assistant Technical Director.  Emily Lovell is our house lighting designer. She puts on a harness, climbs to the ceiling, drops down and hooks to a cage. That’s how lights focus in every show.” Chris continued, “Tom Fraley does House Audio and Gianni Scalise is the flyman and rigger and positive vibe technician. He climbs a five story ladder and hangs out on a steel catwalk.”  Chris explained how this crew does the work of ten people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staring at walls and rabbit holes aside, back to the future, I spoke the other day, at length, with The Strand’s Lori Davis, Front of House/Box Office Manager and Fran Whitney, Operations Manager. I’ve come to feel that the successful array of programming /events happening at the theater is concomitant with this dynamic duo working together. And behind all the scenes, is omnipresent Scott MacFadden, the savvy, energetic Managing Director.

 

 

 

 

 

Before talking about the upcoming 95th Anniversary Birthday, we did the Gallery; the room across the hall from the main entrance to the theater, completely renovated, equipped with a bar, tables and a small stage such that you are easily magic carpeted to a Manhattan night spot; just do a quick blink of an eye. Being a resourceful journalist, I researched that the Gallery room used to be a drug store back in those roaring speak easy days of the 20’s.  And we’ll leave it at that.  Fran told me, “We’ve started booking local duos and trios, like NRG and Colossal Street Jam and use Thursday night as a lead.” Lori added, “Beginning in May, we’ll have a comedy act etc… and are hoping to have an open Mic night.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Davis, entrepreneur from Java House in Brick will be setting up in the Gallery. Of course I remember John’s affinity for live music when he once hosted myself and Danny Coleman’s Rock on Radio Show. This will be a new venture for the Gallery with Irish latte coffee available at the bar. Heidi DeFabritius, Front of House /Box Office and Lori will be running the Gallery with open bar. They mentioned the theater being booked into 2020. Exit 82 Theater Company and BCCT (Brick Children’s Community Theatre) also perform here. The Strand is hot these days.

Lori added,” We were gifted a Baby Grand piano by Georgian Court University. Todd Gagnon will be playing music before shows and we’re looking into hosting low budget movie premieres.”

I said, “It’s party time.”  Right up front here, I’m hoping NJ Discover readers are looking for a fun night out on the town and find ways to extricate themselves from the perils of sedentary sofas and come to party at 95th Anniversary Birthday Party on Wednesday April 26th from 6-9 PM. Fran noted, “It’s a fundraiser, all proceeds to The Strand. Entertainment includes our own Lori Davis, Heidi and Tony DeFabritus, Arlan Feiles, Chris Rockwell, Richie Santa, Robert Santa and more.”

There is something spiritually palpable and historically haunting about The Strand and the Gallery. Part of it of course is the art deco ambiance. It is a magnificent theater. Easy on the eyes and ears. You have to be there and feel it. Hey, while we’re partying on the 26th, come over to me in the Gallery, and we’ll talk about stuff. Here’s looking at you from the rabbit hole.

 

 

STARDUST: Manny Cabo – Revolution of Peace, Love & Music – by TaraJean McDonald STARDUST: Manny Cabo – Revolution of Peace, Love & Music – by TaraJean McDonald(0)

STARDUST – By TaraJean McDonald

STARDUST: Manny Cabo – Revolution of Peace, Love & Music

Manny Cabo – singer, songwriter and motivational speaker

The stars were all aligned when Manny Cabo stepped on stage at auditions for NBC’s The Voice in 2015. Now, over a year later, he is still inspiring both the young and the not-so-young to believe in themselves and to accomplish their dreams. I had a chance to catch this rising star, in between his busy schedule, and to sit in his home studio and chat about what it takes to maintain your motivation and achieve your success – one step at a time.

STARDUST: Host TaraJean McDonald

Photo Credits: Calvin Schwartz

Photo of TaraJean Credit: Manny Cabo

https://www.mannycabomusic.com

https://www.facebook.com/mannycabomusic

There are stars all around us in the universe – After stars were formed, the intensity of their energies caused them to explode – their stardust traveled through the universe eventually clumping together to give birth to planets.

The earth is formed from stardust. Our bodies are formed from the earth – so in essence we are all made up of stardust. Every one of us is made up of stardust – the famous and the not so famous; the people who we look up to and admire, and the people who are homeless on the streets. I write about people who shine. Maybe you know them, maybe you don’t. But you are going to learn something about their lives, their passions and what motivates them. And in the end, I hope you realize that we all have the ability to shine, because after all – we are StarDust.

StarDust: A Revolution Of Peace, Love & Music – hosted by TaraJean McDonald   Blog: YoursTrulyTJ.com

TaraJean is a versatile journalist who has produced numerous segments for NJDiscover. She is experienced in Production and Post Production of TV Commercials, Live News Coverage, TV Entertainment Segments and Live Theatrical Events. She runs the gamut from writing to shooting to scripting to editing to post-production. She studied Communications specializing in Advertising at Fordham University, New York City, but her passion for creativity and expression moved her beyond a Bachelor of Arts degree to where she also studied Theatre and Performance at both Fordham and Roundabout Theatre. Her incandescent spirit took her ultimately to the stage and television in Metropolitan New York as an aspiring actress. Along the way, with a few blinks of an eye, TaraJean was married and raising three young daughters. Next, TaraJean harnessed that spirited energy, becoming editor of Our Town, a Monmouth County newspaper and appearing as a TV host for local Channel 77. The next perfect fit for TaraJean was to channel her unlimited energy in central Jersey working with NJ Discover as TV Host, Reporter, Writer and Producer. She consistently brought a special warmth, caring, insight and humanity to her stories and her reputation flourished with on sight reporting about Hurricane Sandy, homelessness and Tent City, pervasive hunger in New Jersey, and Jersey’s iconic music and film scene. She is the epicenter of what’s happening around the county and state. Almost evolutionary, TaraJean went on to co-host NJ Discover LIVE radio and cable TV and still manages time (quintessential juggler) to be Reporter, SpokesModel, Copywriter, Producer, Journalist and now Sr. Editor for Fashion Haunts Magazine.

 

STARDUST:  From Elizabeth to Marlboro to NYC….The Witch of St. Elmora Street – Joey Merlo – written by TaraJean McDonald STARDUST: From Elizabeth to Marlboro to NYC….The Witch of St. Elmora Street – Joey Merlo – written by TaraJean McDonald(0)

StarDust

By TaraJean McDonald

 There are stars all around us in the universe – After stars were formed, the intensity of their energies caused them to explode – their stardust traveled through the universe eventually clumping together to give birth to planets.

The earth is formed from stardust. Our bodies are formed from the earth – so in essence we are all made up of stardust. Every one of us is made up of stardust – the famous and the not so famous; the people who we look up to and admire, and the people who are homeless on the streets. I write about people who shine. Maybe you know them, maybe you don’t. But you are going to learn something about their lives, their passions and what motivates them. And in the end, I hope you realize that we all have the ability to shine, because after all – we are StarDust.

 

From Elizabeth to Marlboro to NYC – StarDust

Joey Merlo – poet, actor and playwright

This past weekend I took a full car ride into the Soho section of NYC to see an Off-Off-Broadway Play. I heard about this talented poet and playwright that wrote a new play called The Witch of St. Elmora Street. He grew up in New Jersey, he attended college in NYC, he travelled to Ghana where he completed his first Documentary and now he lives in Washington Heights and hosts a showcase for artists at Smalls Jazz Club in the West Village. I knew at once this young man was StarDust.

The Witch of St. Elmora Street – by Joey Merlo

There is a fine line between reality and myth that separates the stories Joey Merlo grew up hearing while sitting around his family’s holiday dinner table. Using some of what he heard whispered by relatives and some of what he watched unfold over the years he created a poignant play. This story encompasses an Italian family’s strong bonds along with their ageless traditions and superstitions. Joey was able to create characters that were endearing and at the same time disturbing. When I spoke to Joey after the play, I had to move between audience members who surrounded him with tears and hugs. Joey had touched on the emotions of everyone in the theater. This was immensely due to the storyline of his play, which portrayed both the main characters suffering through the debilitating effects of a broken heart. There is not a person alive who hasn’t lost someone they love or watched someone they love go through the madness that is triggered by a broken heart.

 

Shooting Stars
The talented cast that Joey brought together onstage and backstage came from near and far; two members originally from London, 1 from Ohio and another from the town of Marlboro, NJ. The talented Hair Designer, Ali Tritto, never complained when travelling to NYC and then back home to Marlboro, NJ each night of dress rehearsals and performances, because she knew she had found her niche. She along with the Director and Joey collaborated together to create the memorable styles of each cast member. Lead Actress, Vanessa Kopel, gave credit to Ali’s talents for helping her to bring the character to life on stage. Ali Tritto still works in Manalapan, NJ styling hair at Studio 455 but the doors have opened for her talents to shine in the NYC theater district and movie business. Watch for this shooting star from Marlboro: Ali Tritto.

StarDust Ahead

Closing night was Sunday for this staged play, but Joey Merlo hopes to take the next steps toward bringing The Witch of St. Elmora Street to the big screen. The reviews were astounding, the acting was remarkable and the script was extraordinary. The unforgettable journey this playwright takes us through during his 90-minute play will surely enable it to become a Fresh Tomato hit on the big screen. Keep your eyes out for Joey Merlo and The Witch of St. Elmora Street at Facebook: Wolfpack Theatrics, Instagram: JoeJoeMerlo, www.ElmoraStreet.com.

 

The Witch of St. Elmora Street is by Joey Merlo. Directed by Emylin Kowaleski.  Assistant Director is Brian Pollock. Lighting Designer is Mike Mcgee. Scenic Designer is Brooke Ban Hensbergen. Costume Designer is Lizzie Donelan. Hair Designer is Ali Tritto. Make Up Designer is Lea Maurer. Production Stage Manager is Caitlin Kellermeyer. Tech Director is Aaron Watson. Producer is Jordan Bean, with associate Producer Patrick Taylor. Produced by Wolfpack Theatrics and Dark Matter Productions. Graphics by Alexia Merlo. Photos by Bryan Berrios.

Cast: Caitlin Zoz, Chris Dunlop, Vanessa Koppel, Chinaza Uche, Nathaniel Peart, Nicole Pursell, and Enzo Ferrante.

**************************************************

StarDust: From Elizabeth to Marlboro to NYC article written by TaraJean McDonald   Blog: YoursTrulyTJ.com

TaraJean is a versatile journalist who has produced numerous segments for NJDiscover. She is experienced in Production and Post Production of TV Commercials, Live News Coverage, TV Entertainment Segments and Live Theatrical Events. She runs the gamut from writing to shooting to scripting to editing to post-production. She studied Communications specializing in Advertising at Fordham University, New York City, but her passion for creativity and expression moved her beyond a Bachelor of Arts degree to where she also studied Theatre and Performance at both Fordham and Roundabout Theatre. Her incandescent spirit took her ultimately to the stage and television in Metropolitan New York as an aspiring actress. Along the way, with a few blinks of an eye, TaraJean was married and raising three young daughters. Next, TaraJean harnessed that spirited energy, becoming editor of Our Town, a Monmouth County newspaper and appearing as a TV host for local Channel 77. The next perfect fit for TaraJean was to channel her unlimited energy in central Jersey working with NJ Discover as TV Host, Reporter, Writer and Producer. She consistently brought a special warmth, caring, insight and humanity to her stories and her reputation flourished with on sight reporting about Hurricane Sandy, homelessness and Tent City, pervasive hunger in New Jersey, and Jersey’s iconic music and film scene. She is the epicenter of what’s happening around the county and state. Almost evolutionary, TaraJean went on to co-host NJ Discover LIVE radio and cable TV and still manages time (quintessential juggler) to be Reporter, SpokesModel, Copywriter, Producer, Journalist and now Sr. Editor for Fashion Haunts Magazine.

 

 

 

 

NJ DISCOVER EXCLUSIVE: PeduL:  A New Company Changing the Way College Is Funded. A Brave New Young World.  By  Calvin Schwartz   August 8, 2016 NJ DISCOVER EXCLUSIVE: PeduL: A New Company Changing the Way College Is Funded. A Brave New Young World. By Calvin Schwartz August 8, 2016(0)

NJ DISCOVER EXCLUSIVE: PeduL:  A New Company Changing the Way College Is Funded. A Brave New Young World.  By  Calvin Schwartz   August 8, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sitting in my office, early August, my thoughts racing to a Big Ten (Rutgers) college football field with its concurrent September dreams, I just ceremoniously slapped myself to “snap out of it” (Cher did that to Nicholas Cage in the movie ‘Moonstruck’). It worked. I’m concentrating now on PeduL, the incredible young minds that conceived this college funding game changer; the giant telecommunications company, IDT, which is nurturing them in Newark, New Jersey, my birthplace.

I’ve envisioned a series of articles, interviews and other media events to bring PeduL to journalistic light. They’ll need all of us come launch time. And funny thing, all of us, past, present and future have college kids in our lives. So don’t go away. One more point at the outset. Here is the PeduL link.  Check it out.   http://www.pedul.com

 

 

 

 

 

If you’ve checked it out and saw their TEAM, then you saw Chisa Egbelu, as their Business Operator. Chisa was my illuminating connection to the company. Chisa and I have an interesting history which now becomes relevant. Cut to three years ago, the Garden State Film Festival in Atlantic City. Chisa interned on a film that I needed to see. After the Q and A, he saw my Rutgers cap, magnetically approached, mentioned he was a sophomore at Rutgers, asked my connection and the rest is a precious history of alma mater and commonality.

As we discussed PeduL, their vision, energy and dedication, I knew my course of involvement. For decades, I’ve been watching ‘the news.’ So much of our extant world, the condition thereof, is a function of education. It’s so simple but not. What always blows me away, is the fact that a considerable number of eye-blinks ago, I went to Rutgers. My tuition was $500 per year and I managed to get a partial scholarship (They must’ve been plentiful as I resided in the middle of my class). End result, I personally (not my parents. I had two younger sisters to worry about) paid for my entire Rutgers education. No lifelong loans to pay back. No chains on hands or feet. I was debt-free when I left Rutgers with two degrees. I even managed to save my summer jobs money.

 

When I visited PeduL last week with my wife, a former three-decade educator, and Yolande Edme, a recent Rutgers graduate, Big Ten and NJ Discover broadcast intern, my first words of exclamation were how much the country and world needed what PeduL was doing. Then I asked Chisa what happened over the years that witnessed tuition going from $500 a year to $15,000. Chisa’s response was rapid fire, “The government doesn’t do what they used to anymore.”

Next I brought up how relevant and timely PeduL is. Their mission is front page global headlines. Bernie Sanders campaign in part focused on paying for all public colleges. LeBron James, a few weeks ago, gave $41 million so that 1100 kids could go to college. PeduL is right at the epicenter. Chisa totally agreed and was well aware.

 

 

 

I’d spend nearly three hours talking with Chisa and Murtala Aliyu, Developer and math genius in the vibrant atmosphere of IDT. Kayla Jackson, Project Manager and source of vast amounts of energy was out of the office that day. As journalistically sharing the thrill and vision of PeduL’s development will be an ongoing project; it’s that important for all of us; my purpose in this first installment is to summarize the inception and birth of PeduL and to begin to enlist readers and believers.

Chisa spoke about IDT, a global telecommunications company and their visionary executive. “He seemed like a one on one individual. A cool person to talk to. Like your friend’s grandfather.” IDT provides PeduL with space, legal team and great support, advice and consent in development. “They are international phone calling, entertainment companies, animation for ‘The Simpsons,’ and even look for oil. What I really respect about IDT is that they don’t stay in their own lane. Howard Jonas is Chairman, his son Samuel, CEO. His son has been great to me, really kind. The thing I respect most about Howard; he figures out what he wants to do and just does it.” I smiled remembering I worked for the same type of man, Leonardo Del Vecchio, for 25 years at Luxottica Group who operated the same way. IDT has branched out. It’s also why they have this venture aspect to the company which is PeduL.

 

 

I like to be a balanced interviewer; some heavy, some light approaches. “Chisa, where are you living?” I sensed he was all over the place just like he was at Rutgers; from playing Quidditch (Harry Potter), Rutgers radio and TV, excelling academically and being tapped for Rutgers’ highest honor, Cap and Skull, Senior Honor Society. “It depends. Tonight I’m in New Brunswick. Murtala and I have a meeting tomorrow in NYC. Sometimes I’m in Harlem or Morris Plains.”

I asked about a general overview how this all came about commenting, “It’s unusual for an undergrad to become a CEO?”  “It is unusual but more commonplace than you think.” He spoke about his roommate and best friend, Jarrett, a computer science genius (top 2% of class) but more passionate about music so he left Rutgers and enrolled at Berklee College of Music, his dream come true. The following summer, Jarrett came to visit and asked to move back. He couldn’t afford to stay at Berklee. “At this point, we were deep into Reddit culture, Kickstarter and cool things on the internet. Then the statement, “I wish there was Kickstarter for school.” But why isn’t there? From there, the roots started taking shape.”

 

 

Murtala had just walked in to our cubicle meeting. Chisa continued, “So before we got here, we had a great Business to Consumer aspect, and now Business to Business. That is our biggest leverage point on top of competitors.”  I interjected, “What about Jarrett?” “He moved in back then; our double became a triple. It was quite the year. He works at Lockheed-Martin now. He’s so good at computer science and realized music was a pipe dream if he can’t afford it.”

It was difficult to develop PeduL and find the right team. “It’s a lot especially doing it between classes, activities, internships, part-time jobs, events, parties. It was a lot of work. It’s also the reason no one has done this before. It’s overwhelming. There are so many different aspects, so much red tape to cut dealing with the bureaucratic system, education at one end matching with tech culture. Two different worlds. But that’s our culture now, embracing difficulty.” I love that phrase.

Chisa next dealt with media and how the business side leads the way. “When I was interning at NBC, the business side led the way. If they said it won’t work, that was it. I thought of trying to recruit the smartest kids in business school. I said we have this idea, are you interested. It seems a lot of them thought we could just throw it up and people would use it. My naiveté. But it moved me to go forward. We were 4, 5, 6 maybe 7 business partners at the beginning. They dropped it; too much work.”  Moving forward, Chisa took off a whole semester, interning and focused on looking for a team. “That’s how I found Murtala. Commitment and loyalty trumps everything else. We needed individuals passionate about the project which led us to Kayla in business school.  She is a superstar.”

 

“What’s the practical side of how this works?”  Chisa looked skyward for a moment; a sign of serious intention. “We are for profit. We made that decision. It was a difficult trade-off, weighing pros and cons. We were looking to creating a non-profit aspect within the company. Why we went profit? We decided to rely on what our features can bring. We are dealing with angel investors, putting in money, taking a certain percentage. It gets complicated with government involvement and transparency.  We’ll move faster and smoother because non-profit is cumbersome and full of regulations.”

I thought it was all about giving back and caring about the future of America and helping kids to get educated and not worrying about tax deductions which is really nickel dime stuff. Chisa liked my thinking.  “We are not cutting out attempts to get big donors and doors are open for millions of people to give something. Grassroots marketing is where we’re going. It’s who we are as a company.”  He explained what is best for them is a million people giving a few dollars.

There are two aspects to donations. One is to donate to an individual campaign. Secondly, you can donate to an institution page, a university, youth organization or high school.  I like to think of myself as a student of human nature so I asked, “What have you learned so far?” “The number one thing we learned is that in business there are no true favors. It’s all business.

They go to New York three to four times a week for meetings. They have learned how to dictate and move faster. They know there are no such things as favors. They are giving their supporters an opportunity because they are growing. IDT funds their lawyers.  Hugely important is how much money out of $1000 gets to the students. “We only take 4.9% off and are fans of transparency.”

“Can students come to you. Who decides?” “We’re starting off with students in need and academically deserving. They can make a campaign when coming to our website. We will also have University pages. Individuals can donate to that page (school) and allocate that to students. Money is sent off as a scholarship to those students.”  They are actually building a calculator now to find who is in need. Then you’re in and start soliciting money. They have the help on the business side and now need help on the education side. My mind was firing away on all the people I know in education. I was thrilled my wife became part of the discussion.

 

I also realized that their education journey required learning how to get to the decision maker; something I learned for 25 years at Luxottica. The other positive outcome, is the more they create awareness, the more it spreads around; the social media aspect as well.

Next we talked about the infinite amount of small businesses so perfectly suited to be involved. PeduL gives every small business owner, every company in existence an opportunity to give back to their communities. On local levels, they’ll involve Chamber of Commerce. “Ideally, we’d love every kid on our platform to be sponsored by a company. For example, the bakery down the street sponsors a student. The student is given tasks to do; for instance, getting people to like the bakery on Facebook, sharing bakery posts, watching their video, doing social media marketing for them. Out of the business marketing budget, they would pay $4 to 5 each time it takes place.” I realized it’s really not charity for the business; they are getting marketing. Regional companies have capital and need exposure. PeduL is a perfect win-win situation.

 

 

I told Chisa, Murtala and Yolande that my head was spinning and that is a good thing. It doesn’t spin often these days. I marvel at PeduL. There is such a need for their product, for educating our youth and insuring America’s future. I marvel at these kids from Rutgers and IDT. I believe I just enlisted and maybe got to some of you out there. Best to say now, to be continued. This article has not been personal but strictly business.

NJ Discover Spotlight: With LAURIE HERNANDEZ, US OLYMPIC GYMNASTICS TEAM at Monmouth Gymnastics Academy Tuesday July 12th    by Calvin Schwartz NJ Discover Spotlight: With LAURIE HERNANDEZ, US OLYMPIC GYMNASTICS TEAM at Monmouth Gymnastics Academy Tuesday July 12th by Calvin Schwartz(0)

NJ Discover Spotlight: With LAURIE HERNANDEZ, US OLYMPIC GYMNASTICS TEAM  at Monmouth Gymnastics Academy Tuesday July 12th    by Calvin Schwartz  


 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been watching US Women’s Olympic Gymnastics for decades. Did I ever think I’d have this kind of hands-on opportunity to spend precious time with an Olympian? I am a long time devotee of Women’s sports. I loved when Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs in tennis. And I’ve been a season ticket holder for Rutgers Women’s basketball. And NJ Discover does the TV broadcasts for New Jersey’s Sky Blue FC Women’s Professional Soccer Team. I love roaming the sidelines absorbing; its helped me meet some of the players on our World Cup Women’s Soccer Championship Team. It’s on the NJ Discover TV LIVE Show agenda to do programming revolving around women’s sports. Therefore, fitting and proper I was with (along with many media) Laurie Hernandez today.

 

 

 

 

There is so much press revolving around Laurie, who is as poised, eloquent and mature as a thirty-year old Olympic athlete. I marveled at her demeanor and sincerity. Watching her work out for a ½ hour, you could certainly definitively feel that amazing intensity that took her to the global pinnacle of her sport. I had one burning question for Maggie Haney, her coach, mentor of all these years. Laurie started when she was five. “Could you tell back then, that Laurie was a special athlete?” “Yes, we knew that we had a very unusual young girl here destined….” This destiny theme was what I wanted to pursue.

 

Laurie told me how thrilled and proud she is to represent the USA. “I’ve been working my whole life for this. It’s been my dream. And to be part of this amazing team is also a dream come true…. I’m honored. I hope I can inspire little girls all over the world…. I still can’t believe it…. I’m in awe of two nights ago. It’s a big life change but so worth it.”  Laurie will train at her home gym, Monmouth Gymnastics for the next several days then she  heads  to an intense, nine-day pre-Olympic training camp at national team coordinator Martha(Bela) Karolyi’s Texas ranch. Maggie Haney will be with her.  Laurie is from Old Bridge. The township will honor its homegrown Olympian Thursday, at the high school on Route 520  from  6 PM to 7 PM according to Mayor Owen Henry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I talked next to Kaitlyn Avila. She has been working for Maggie and Julie (Monmouth Gymnastics) for four years. She worked at Monmouth Gymnastics for 10 years total. “I always wanted to work for Maggie. She hired me four years ago. It was a dream come true. Laurie and Maggie together are amazing. I’ve watched Laurie grow and become this amazing athlete. She has so much determination and perseverance to stick with it as long as she has.”

 

 

 

Laurie started when she was five years old. “To see someone from five to 16 now, never give up the sport. It’s incredible for me to be able to work for one of the best teams in the whole country.” I gazed over to watch Laurie’s mother. She was glowing, ebullient and filled with so much pride; like a poster defining those three words. She never stopped smiling.

Next I spoke with Hunter W. He also was at Monmouth for five years. Ever since he started working there, he knew Laurie. “She has been awesome in the gym, being humble. She shows so much dedication. Works so hard. She is here eight hours a day and home schooled here. Some days are harder but she works through everything.” They are all so proud of Laurie. It gives all the kids someone to look up to. “They really feel special that they have an Olympian in the same gym.”

 

 

 

The destiny theme. “When did you both see a spark in Laurie that encouraged her to pursue this.”  “We saw something when she was 11 years old.” When Kaitlyn started five years ago, they all said Laurie is going to the Olympics. Nobody believed it. And she is. For me, being there as Monmouth Gymnastics opened their doors to the media, this quickly became one of those top ten days you dream about. Speaking about dreams. I’d like to call the Olympic Gymnastics team on their way to Rio, the “team of golden dreams.”

 

 

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