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BBYO election night program gets thumbs up

This story was published in Cleveland Jewish News

By AMANDA KOEHN | STAFF REPORTER

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Actress Jackie Cruz talks to BBYO and Solon High School students about pursuing their goals on election night Nov. 8.

BBYO hosted students at Solon High School on the evening of Nov. 8 to discuss the election and hear from speaker Jackie Cruz, a Dominican-American actress best known for her role on “Orange is the New Black,” on pursuing their goals.

The presentation of a $115,000 check to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). Raised over the course of two years, all of the funds were teen-raised in BBYO's 60+ communities across North America as a part of the Lynn Schusterman Campaign for Service and Justice.

A pre-IC "Chapter Execs Conference" focused on educating chapter leaders on a number of key issues including housing, healthcare, education and hunger as a precursor to announcing "Stand Up." Participants prepared a letter to be sent to President Obama letting the Administration know of BBYO's efforts in response to President Obama's call to action.

The collection of toiletries and other items from the 750 teens and 100 staff at the convention to be donated to the Northern New Jersey Jewish Family and Children's Service Center – an effort that will be continued by the local BBYO region – Greater Jersey Hudson River Region.

Several award presentations including: AZA Alumnus of the Year Award to Mark Charendoff, President of the Jewish Funders Network (JFN), an association of Jewish philanthropists and community leaders; BBG Alumna of the Year Award to attorney, Rachel Gebaide, the Vice President of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando and Trustee of the Tampa-Orlando-Pinellas Jewish Foundation; and the David L. Bittker Unsung Hero Award, which is given out annually to an outstanding volunteer advisor, to Chuck Marcus from Wilmington, Delaware with 42 years of dedication to BBYO.

A Day of Learning on Shabbat, with 26 learning sessions and multiple prayer service options for teens to choose from so they could connect more personally with their Shabbat experience.

The presentation of BBYO Excellence in Programming awards to the 100 winners of the more than 400 applicants from BBYO chapters and individual teens.

A performance by 6-piece Eastern European folk-punk band, "Golem" (of the not-for-profit JDub Records label).

Cruz shared her story of growing up in the Dominican Republic and facing setbacks toward pursuing her dream of acting, most notably being severely injured in a car accident when she was a teenager. She said recovering from the accident, she had a “shaved head, crooked eyes and couldn’t even smile,” however, still went on to pursue her goals.

“I thought my dream was over at 17 years old,” she said. “If you guys leave here with anything today … determination, perseverance and never giving up is definitely key.”

BBYO is a pluralistic Jewish teen group that seeks to engage teens in Jewish experiences. About 200 students were registered for the event, which was also open to non-Jewish students. Lindsey Rosenberg, senior regional director of BBYO, said one of the purposes of the event was to motivate the students to vote once they are old enough.

“The goal is to get them more engaged and excited about the election, and even though most of them are too young to vote, we want them to be excited about the opportunity in the future and know that they still have a voice,” Rosenberg said.

Samantha Eisner, 14, who is active in BBYO, said the event was interesting because although teens sometimes scoff at educational events, fun occasions can help them become engaged and educated too.

“With BBYO, it’s like you are learning and having fun with your friends,” she said.

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