New Jersey State Senator Shirley Turner honors Arzaga Dillard

(Left to right) Arzaga Dillard, Senator Shirley Turner, and Fred Vereen Jr.

Arzaga Dillard is leaving his position as Program Director of Every Child Valued (ECV), an after-school and summer enrichment program, founded in 2001 by Fred Vereen Jr, Executive Director Emeritus.

In appreciation, New Jersey State Senator Shirley Turner (D-Mercer/Hunterdon) presented a joint resolution to Mr. Dillard at this week’s Lawrence Township Public School (LTPS) Board of Education meeting, hosted by ECV Executive Director, Nicole Cody, in the Fred Vereen Jr. Community Center, at Eggerts Crossing Village, in Lawrenceville.

Nicole Cody
Nicole Cody

Words like “gratitude” and “appreciation” came often in the mouths of parents, board members, and ECV program partners when talking about Mr. Dillard and the impact ECV has made in the lives of children.

The program operates at two locations. Students in grades K-3 are in the Fred Vereen Jr. Community Center, at Eggerts Crossing Village, and those in grades 4-6 are in the Lawrence Community Center. Lawrence Township Public School (LTPS) has been a partner of ECV since its inception. Besides staffing two lead teachers for the program, LTPS give funds toward its operation.

“It takes a village, and its Eggerts Crossing Village, to educate a child. You have done a magnificent job at helping enrich the lives of children here,” said Senator Turner.

Senator Shirley Turner presents the resolution to Arzaga Dillard
Senator Shirley Turner presents the resolution to Arzaga Dillard

Prior to working for ECV, Mr. Dillard worked as a Physical Education teacher and coach for 30 years in the Trenton School District. In 1993, Mr. Dillard received the Governor’s Award for Outstanding Teaching. In memory of older brother Marco, who died from cancer in 2009, Mr. Dillard created the Marco Dillard Scholarship Fund, and currently serves as President. The Fund provides “monetary assistance to eligible Trenton High School seniors who have demonstrated academic excellence, school spirit, community service, and participation in basketball and cheerleading and who have been accepted to an accredited college, university, or an institution of higher learning.”

The need to build decent, safe, and affordable housing was keenly felt by Fred Vereen Jr., and others, who grew up in Eggerts Crossing in the 1940s. The area was predominantly black and Mr. Vereen lived in a structure that was more shack than home. Outhouses were commonplace. In 1965, Mr. Vereen, and others, launched the beginnings of what would soon be constructed as Eggerts Crossing Village, “Lawrence’s first subsidized, 100-unit, family-rental housing development.”

Nikki Graham
Nikki Graham

Nikki Graham, member of the ECV Board of Trustees and parent of rising 3rd grader, Simone, at Slackwood Elementary spoke of the impact ECV has had on her daughter. After relocating from New York City, Simone experienced problems with anxiety. Ms. Graham found ECV’s “legendary Mr. Dillard” through word of mouth and soon enrolled her daughter in the program. After spending time in ECV, Simone’s sense of security developed and her anxieties dissipated. She looked forward to coming after school each day.

“[ECV] has become the nucleus of everything we do. It’s had such an impact on her self-confidence and I can’t thank them enough. Uncle Dillard, as she calls him, has had such an impact on her life,”  said Ms. Graham.

Standing ovation

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