Counselor's Corner Newsletter

Summer 2020 Looks A Little Different This Year

Let's Get Creative

We are approaching the close of the school year! For many of us, the end of a school year is bitter sweet. This year, those feelings may be even more complex. While the past few months have resulted in many academic and psychological challenges, virtual schooling helped give some structure and consistency to our days. How do we plan for the transition to summer vacation? This summer, camps, pools, and summer vacations may not turn out as we had imagined them to be, and as a result, we need to be prepared! What clever day trips can we take? How can we make sure our kids are staying active? How do we help take care of our children's emotional well-being throughout this time? We have lots of ideas to help you plan and prepare to keep busy and positive throughout the summer!

Let's Learn: Sports, Museums, Camps and More

NJ Kids Online is offering lots of information for parents and children to make this summer more interesting and meaningful. Check out their large list of sports training activities, free virtual museum tours, and camps. Many of the resources on the website are free, and some require payment. The site offers some clever ideas to help children stay active, engaged, and continue to learn over the next few months.

Let's Explore

A wonderful way to embrace social distancing and still enjoy nature and the great outdoors is to go on a hike with family and friends. New Jersey is known for beautiful hikes throughout the state. Check out and for detailed information about hiking, biking, and kayaking.

Sourland Mountain Preserve

East Mountain Road, Hillsborough

This hike is approximately 5.4 miles. The Ridge Trail is very rocky with some minor elevation gain. Mountain biking, horseback riding, and bouldering are also allowed. For the 5.0 mile trek, follow only the SQUARE signs of the Ridge trail. For a shorter distance of 1.4 miles, follow the TRIANGLE signs. For 0.5 miles, follow only the CIRCLE signs. There are also several trails marked “C” (Connecting) throughout the park, which can be used to shorten the hike at several points.

Pyramid Mountain Natural Historic Area

Boonton Ave., Montville
Total Distance: About 3 miles (though there are plenty of alternate routes)

Before heading out, stop at the Visitor Center for maps and advice—(they often know which trails are crowded with scout troops). Our favorite trek is the not-too-challenging hike up to Tripod Rock: Stranded here after glaciers moved through, this massive boulder is perfectly balanced on three much smaller rocks (hence the name). Although it looks precarious, it’s totally safe, and climbing under it makes for fun photo ops.

What You’ll See: Aside from the awesome Tripod Rock and some pretty views, if you keep heading down the orange trail, you’ll walk along the beautiful shores of the Taylortown Reservoir. The kids can also go off-trail for some geocaching in the woods.

Rifle Camp Park

387 Rifle Camp Rd., Woodland Park
Total Distance: The outer loop is 3.5 miles

From the first parking lot, take the yellow trail that leads you along the outskirts of the entire park close to the neighboring reservoir, or take the red trail, which is shorter and more direct. Both routes have access to the observatory at the top, where there’s great stargazing in the evenings. Neither trail is particularly difficult, so both are great options for beginners. What You’ll See: A stunning view of the New York City skyline, as well as some cool rocky cliffs. Most days you’ll also see tons of wildlife along the trails, too.

High Point State Park

1480 Route 23, Sussex
Total Distance: 3.6 miles

There are a bunch of great hikes here—park in the monument lot and follow the kid-friendly red/green loop, which heads along the ridge and then goes past Lake Marcia. In the summer, make sure to pack bathing suits and a towel because once the kids spot the water, they’ll want to spend some time swimming. (There are lifeguards and concessions here, too). Before you head back, hit the highlight of the park: Climb up inside the 220-foot, circa 1930 monument erected in honor of all war veterans.

What You’ll See: At the top of the monument you’ll see 360-degree views of the Catskill and Pocono Mountains.

Stairway to Heaven

Rt. 94, Vernon
Total Distance: 2.4 miles

If the word “stair” is in the name, you can bet there’s climbing involved. But with this hike, you can choose your pleasure (or pain). Pick the scenic route, with over two miles of relatively flat boardwalk that crosses through marshland, ambles over stiles (little ladder structures), through cow pastures and near old railroad tracks. If you’re brave enough, you can also tackle the seemingly straight uphill mile of rock slab “stairs” to the tippy top of Wawayanda Mountain. The kids will love peeking in the mailbox at the top, where hikers traversing the Appalachian Trail (from Georgia to Maine) all sign in as they pass.

What You’ll See: Make it to the top, and you’ll be rewarded with amazing views of the Catskills, Pochuck Mountain and Vernon Valley.

A few more easy hikes to get you started:

· Loantaka Brook Reservation (Morris Township, NJ); an easy, well-marked 3.5-mile round-trip trail, with a pond frequented by ducks and geese. Please call before going for best directions; 973-326-7600.

· The 3-mile round-trip Black River Trail at Hacklebarney State Park (Long Valley, NJ) sits in a gorge of unusual beauty. The first mile may be slow going because kids love to toss rocks into the brook or watch the numerous tiny waterfalls. Reaching the river is exciting, for there are large and small ripples and boulders to climb along the path. Be sure to use caution: rocks in the water can be slippery; 908-638-8572.

· Cheesequake State Park (Matawan, NJ) offers several easy trails, each with different terrain, plus a nature center filled with live critters and excellent displays; 732-566-2161.

· Choose one of the three short trails at the Pequest Trout Hatchery (Oxford, NJ). Later, visit the interactive displays in the Natural Resource Education Center, and learn how more than 600,000 trout used to stock the state’s waterways are raised here; 908-637-4125.

· Hiking along the long boardwalks at Lord Stirling Park (Basking Ridge, NJ) will keep you high and dry in the swampy areas as you pass huge stands of cattails. In the dense wooded areas, or when taking a break atop the platform overlooking the Passaic River, you may spot fox, raccoons, skunks, or deer; 908-766-2489.

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Let's Volunteer

While we are all practicing social distancing as our new normal, many individuals and families are facing unprecedented challenges. The result is an increased need for people to help each other. Please consider providing assistance. Here are the volunteering guidelines as outlined by during COVID-19: How you can help from home

The Food Bank Network of Somerset County - offers free pre-bagged food items for pick up and provides food for Friday Backpack program at Van Derveer Elementary School.

Location: Building 9 Easy Street, Bound Brook, NJ

Hours: 9:00 AM - 1:30 PM

Contact: 732-560-1813

Please NO soups, canned vegetables, canned beans, or pasta

We have an overabundance of these items at this time

Items Needed (*Denotes Critical Need)

  • *Canned Meats (Chicken, Dinty Moore Stew, Chilli, Corned Beef, Spam, Ham, etc)

  • *Tuna, salmon, etc. (cans & pouches)

  • *Canned Pastas (Ravioli, Beefaroni, Spaghettios, etc.)

  • *“ComPleats” (Hormel etc. microwave meals)

  • *Spaghetti Sauce (ready to use)

  • *Boxed Shelf Stable Milk (Parmalat, Borden, Naturel, etc)

  • Macaroni & Cheese (boxes & microwave cups)

  • Cereal (Cold or Hot- oatmeal)

  • Fruit Juice (plastic bottles, Juice Boxes)

  • Peanut Butter & Jelly

  • White & Brown Rice (regular, instant & mixes)

  • Pancake Mix “Complete” & Syrup

  • Instant Mashed Potatoes

  • Canned Fruit (regular & no sugar)

  • Snack Items for Children

  • Toilet Paper & Paper Towels

  • Baby Diapers & Wipes

  • Laundry Detergent


Samaritan Homeless Interim Project (SHIP)- a nonprofit organization that feeds anyone who is hungry free of charge.

Location:87 East High StreetSomerville, New Jersey 08876

Contact: 908-393-9545

Drop off Hours: Monday- Friday 8:30-2:30pm

Items Needed:

  • 9in to go containers (no separators)

  • 6in to go containers

  • To go bags (Thank You bags)

  • Food in pop packaging

  • Microwavable food items (ie mac and cheese)

Agape House - offers emergency housing and case management services to single adults and families with children to residents in Somerset County.

Location: 122-128 E. Main Street, Somerville, NJ 08876

Contact: (908) 707-9753

Items Needed:

  • Canned food

  • Bread

  • Peanut Butter

  • Jelly

  • Juice boxes

  • Water

  • Diapers

United Way- Improves lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities to advance the common good. We believe that improving life for all starts with improving life for ALICE®.

An acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, ALICE represents the growing number of individuals and families who are working, but are unable to afford the basic necessities of housing, food, child care, health care, and transportation. Nearly 890,000 New Jersey households – and a quarter of our northern New Jersey neighbors – live in this precarious situation: above the poverty level, but below a basic level of self-sufficiency. Click on the link above to volunteer.

Camino de Fe- A 501c3 organization under the parent organization of “New Jersey District of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod”. 100% of all the dollars will go directly to families in need in the Bernardsville and Somerville/Raritan Communities

Front Line Appreciation Group (FLAG) of Somerville: This group was started because of the overwhelming interest to support both our healthcare professionals and staff at RWJ Somerset. In addition, we are trying to support our community restaurants who are suffering due to the virus.

Red Cross Blood Donations: Consider donating blood, and help save lives.

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Let's Reconnect: Tips for NJ's Reopening

New Jersey is starting to reopen after several months of stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19. The reopening can spark anxiety for kids of all ages. We encourage you to do the following to help ease some of these feelings.

1. Take time to reflect on your own feelings regarding the reopening. How comfortable are you going to stores, restaurants, and seeing friends? How comfortable will you be letting your child engage with others outside of your home? Your level of comfort will guide your children's thoughts and actions. Therefore, it is important to be aware of your own emotions, as they will impact how you talk to your children.

2. Check in frequently and listen to your children. Ask them about how they are feeling and listen without interruption. Hearing your children's concerns, validating their feelings and keeping communication open are important ways to support them during this time.

3. Teach your children coping skills for anxiety. Deep breaths, square breathing, counting backwards from 50, guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, tactile to touch or hold, such as a soft blanket, a favorite stuffed animal or a stress ball.

4. Stay connected with others. With New Jersey reopening, encourage your children to keep contact with friends from home, school and the neighborhood. They can still have fun while maintaining social distancing practices!

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School-Based Mental Health Services

Van Derveer School

Dr. Dana Marrocco -

Ms. Paige Agnello -

Somerville Middle School

Dr. Ellie Sroczynski -

Somerville High School

Mrs. Ashley Joshi -

Mr. Douglas Graiver -

Dr. Ellyn Stein (M.A.P.S. Program) -

District Director of Special Services

Dr. Tanya McDonald -

If you or someone you know is in immediate need of mental health support, please call 9-1-1 and/ or refer to the flyer below of hotlines and services provided by the NJ Department of Children and Families.

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