March 2020 - Online Edition

Welcome to the Boxwood Learning Center Online Edition.

Almost 20 years ago, I committed my life to serving young people who have a voice but who often are not heard. Most of our clients are ages 16 and up and have dropped out of high school for a myriad of reasons. Nearly all are involved in the courts system and/or in foster care.

In 2019, our agency was privileged to serve more than 175 children and youth throughout Union County, at more than five locations. I enjoy working with our champions, because I believe that our future depends on their readiness to lead our communities in uncertain times.

During the coronavirus pandemic, we quickly had to change the way we serve our young people. However, our commitment is just as strong as ever!

THANK you to our friends who donated new HP laptops for distance learning, Echo Lake Church of Christ (Westfield, NJ) for the grocery gift cards, and all individual supporters. Lastly, thank you to the Union County Youth Services Commission staff for supporting our agency--especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Marie Thelusma-Chase
Marie Thelusma-Chase, CFRE
Executive Director
Boxwood Learning Center, Inc.
Distance Learning for Court-Involved Youth in Union County, New Jersey
Schools across New Jersey are turning to distance learning to continue with our children's education. But what happens to youth who are not enrolled in school? Who ensures that they too get an education during the COVID-19 pandemic?

In March 2020, Boxwood Learning Center (BLC) staff prepared 14 champions who attend our center for test-prep to do distance learning.

Our young adults are enrolled in the Union County Educational Achievement Center (EAC*) program, and they are looking forward to obtaining their high school diplomas by way of the Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC). The TASC is a new high school proficiency exam that measures students' competencies in science, social studies, math, reading, and writing.

Small Pantry with Frozen and Nonperishable Food for Program Youth

Thanks to donations from the community at large, we are stocked with snacks, canned food, and toiletries for program youth who are in need. We provide two bags of groceries that includes water, frozen food, canned food, and toiletries, upon request.
Giving Students Incentives to Stay on Track
In March 2020, we launched our Boxwood Bucks program for remote learning students. Students can earn Bucks in order to purchase food and other items that they need. We coordinate the ordering and delivering of items to youth's homes. The Career Exploration and Job Readiness Program (CEJR*) will also provide online internships, starting in April.

"So far I've done a career assessment that told me I would be good working with my hands, which is perfect because I want to be a mechanic. Also I've signed up for financial aid and to be honest I have no idea how to use it but I definitely need it to get into the school I want. With that being said these online Boxwood activities have helped me get the ball rolling on my future."  - Rudy C., Student, March 2020
"I really enjoy working from home because I don't really have any distractions at my house, I don't have to worry about transportation or spending money for bus/rides, I wear cozy clothes and can start/end when I'd like. I'm just in the comfort of my own home, you know? That's wonderful." - Paul A., Boxwood Intern and Class of 2019 graduate

Youth Interviewing Professionals Working in Their Career Interest Area

We are seeking professionals from the medical, financial, and many other career fields to speak to our youth via Zoom or by phone. If you are interested in donating 10-15 minutes of your time, by phone, please reach out to Laura Desiderio at or at 908-468-1802.

Other ways you can support : sponsor a Boxwood intern - youth who completed our programs but we were laid off in March 2020. We need their help in running our distance learning initiatives by setting up zoom calls, writing our newsletters, developing apps to track clients, etc. Please contact us for more information. We have four young graduates in need of paid internships ranging $50-$70 a week.
Resources for Youth and Families

PerformCare - New Jersey Children's System of Care
Suicide prevention; alcohol and substance use resources; adolescent housing resources; behavioral and mental health resources; and other resources.
Hot Meal Distribution for Elizabeth Residents
Every Monday-Saturday
12 noon-2pm

O'Donnell Dempsey Center
618 Salem Ave., Elizabeth, NJ

Stephen Sampson Center
800 Anna St., Elizabeth, NJ
Need to know where to go for free groceries?
Food Pantries / Soup Kitchens

Please contact the Community FoodBank at 908-355-3663, for up-to-date list of pantries.
What does tennis have to do with literacy?
Forty-eight teams (96 women) participated in the 8th Annual Women's Century Tournament on March 6, 2020, in Summit, NJ.  

In order to play in this platform tennis tournament, the combined ages of the two players forming a team had to equal 100 or more. The players had a great day of play, fun, and camaraderie while raising funds for local literacy initiatives. The event proceeds this year benefited Literacy Overcome Boundaries--a group that supports local literacy initiatives. The funds will go to support the work of the Boxwood Learning Center, a 501(c)(3) tax exempt nonprofit, in Union County, NJ.
COVID-19 Testing Hotlines
We also have two numbers for people to call to get tested in Union County:
908-214-7107 and 908-373-5105. Free for residents, first responders, and health care professionals. Referral from a health care professional or doctor is a must.
Here are a few tips:
  • If you’re feeling multiple symptoms of COVID-19, get your doctor on the phone. You should not go to the hospital, because you could potentially spread the virus if you do have it or pick it up if you actually don’t.
  • For a fever, aches, and pains, have acetaminophen (Tylenol) on hand and follow the label’s dosage instructions. Turn to cough medicine or tea with honey to relieve your cough or sore throat.
  • These symptoms may occur because the virus enters your system through “a receptor found in both the upper and lower gastrointestinal tract where it is expressed at nearly 100-fold higher levels than in respiratory organs."
Telehealth Services
You can use your smart phone, tablet, or video-equipped desktop computer to video chat with a medical provider from the comfort of your own home.
*Union County Youth Services Commission
The CEJR and EAC programs are funded by the Union County Youth Services Commission. The Youth Service Commission is part of the Union County Department of Human Services, Division of Youth Service.