March 25, 2017, East Orange, NJ: The City of East Orange is proud to congratulate Osner J. Charles, Director of Recreation & Cultural Affairs, and his team for receiving the following three top honors from the New Jersey Recreation and Park Association (NJRPA) during their 43rd Annual Awards Dinners held on March 7 in Atlantic City:
2017 William D. Foelsch Young Professional of the Year Award
Osner J. Charles
Excellence in Programming Awards
Autism Swim and Safety Lessons Program and Empire 2.0 Music Program
“I am so proud of the dedicated employees of our Department of Recreation & Cultural Affairs under the direction of Osner Charles,” said Mayor Lester E. Taylor III. “Our vision to achieve the standard for urban excellence is lived out daily by a compassionate team of individuals who help to foster growth and nurture the physical, social, emotional and intellectual development of our young people. Inclusive quality programming like our Autism Swim Program is a hallmark of our mission to best serve the needs of our families living in the City of East Orange.”
Osner J. Charles, Director of Recreation & Cultural Affairs
Director Charles has accomplished quite a bit in just the two short years since he began his tenure as director. Charles has implemented more than a dozen new programs including the Autism Swim and Safety Lessons Program, My Brother's Keeper and Sister's Keeper Initiatives, and five-time gold medal winning Let's Move! Initiatives.
Through his efforts, the city’s Recreation Department has been recognized by President Barack Obama’s Administration for the Let's Move! Initiative and was awarded the Champion Award by the USDA for its marketing efforts to promote the expansion of its Summer Food Service Program. Charles’ colleagues applaud his enthusiasm and leadership, describing him as a leader who sets out every day to inspire and motivate others.
Autism Swim and Safety Lessons Program
The city’s Autism Swim and Safety Lessons Program, the first of its kind in the city, and one of only a few in the State of New Jersey, was presented the Excellence in Programming Award for “Educational and Interpretive Programming.” The structured swim and safety program also gives participants a social outlet where individuals can improve speech, coordination, social skills, self-esteem and cognitive development.
“The Autism Water Safety Program is one that is very near and dear to me. My brother has Autism and I understand how difficult it is to find programs that can meet the special needs of this population,” said Charles. “I am proud to be in a position to partner with dedicated leaders like Nassan’s Place Founder Nadine Wright-Arbubakrr who help us to bridge this gap and provide parents and children affected by Autism with quality and safe opportunities to develop and grow.”
Empire 2.0 Music Program
The city’s Empire 2.0 Music Program was presented the Excellence in Programming Award for “Visual & Cultural Arts Programming.” The after-school program was created and managed by The Youth Outreach for Performing Arts & Technology (YOPAT) group under the direction of YOPAT founder and community partner SuSu Stewart. The award-winning program is a free afterschool multimedia arts program for students in grades 7th-12th that teaches various aspects of the music industry with a special emphasis on beats, vocals, recording and film. Funded partially through CDBG funding, participating students were taught how to use music, write scripts, pick locations and assign roles.
The purpose of the New Jersey Recreation and Park Association’s Awards Program is to honor and identify dedicated leaders, employees, and volunteers in the field of Parks and Recreation, and to recognize the State’s outstanding Recreation and Park agencies for excellence in programming, publicity and facility design. The goal of the Awards Program is to focus State attention on the achievement of Park and Recreation agencies, to recognize the continuing efforts of staff and volunteers, and to acknowledge support extended by member agencies.