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Breaking news & local stories from Camden City, Berlin, Laurel Springs and more

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    NJ Advance Media breaks down the top playmaking threats back in 2018.

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    A look at some of the top linemen, tight ends, kickers and punters in New Jersey this season

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    Which teams have the best dual threat offensive combinations?

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    Heading back to school through the years in New Jersey.

    This is a totally unscientific and opinionated theory ... but I think I know why it was harder to go back to school at the end of the summer when I was a kid than it is now.

    We spent more time outdoors. School takes place indoors.

    treeclimb.jpgClimbing trees, for instance. 

    This isn't a rant about "kids nowadays," it's simply a pragmatic look at the difference between then and now. Then, not as many homes had air conditioning as now; going outside didn't seem like a bad choice. There weren't as many things to DO inside, and again, I'm not making any judgments about imagination and creativity; there were only a handful of channels on TV and no videotapes or video games.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    I think the main reason we saw the start of school with foreboding was that we'd spent most of our time outdoors all summer, and school was going to place us indoors for a solid seven hours. Add in how many new advancements have come to the classroom -- technology, activities and, in many, air conditioning -- and I'd bet we would have been just a bit more eager to go back.

    Well, okay, maybe not "eager." Perhaps "accepting."

    Here's a gallery of vintage photos of the start of another school year in New Jersey. And here are links to more galleries you'll enjoy.

    Vintage photos of going back to school in N.J.

    Vintage photos of schools and students in N.J.

    Vintage photos of returning to school in N.J.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.

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    The Garden State has a whole lot more than gardens.

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    A look at the top linebackers and defensive backs in New Jersey this season

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    NJ Advance Media breaks down the top scoring threats back in 2018.

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    These are the big names and future stars of college football.

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    While home values decreased in almost all counties from 2008 to 2012, the markets closest to New York City have bounced back in recent years.

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    Miss any boys soccer action this week? has you covered.

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    NJ Advance Media breaks down the top keepers for 2018.

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    Our experts go out on a limb predicting results and events. Will we be right?

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    Instead of gifts for herself, Pennsauken 11-year-old asked party guests to bring new footwear for others.

    Maica Nesmith looked like a typical 11-year-old girl as she got ready to play with her friends last weekend during her birthday party at Total Turf Experience, a sports and entertainment complex located in Mantua.

    She wore a big, bright smile that never seemed to leave her face. Her hair was pulled back and her sweatshirt was tied around her waist.

    But a typical child her age would probably have asked for the latest tech gadget, a bike or maybe even a book for her birthday. Maica wanted dozens and dozens of shoes -- and none of them were for herself.

    The Pennsauken resident decided this year that instead of toys or money, she wanted her friends and family to consider gifting a pair of children's shoes to be donated to kids in need as they headed back to school.

    "I know some kids are less fortunate than I am and they don't get presents like I do for my birthday or for Christmas," Maica said. "I know they don't have school supplies and they don't go back-to-school shopping every year. So I wanted to help out and do my part and help them feel confident in themselves."

    A sixth-grader at Phifer Middle School, Maica first suggested the idea to her parents, James and Markeeta, over the summer. While mildly surprised, they have come to expect such gestures from the oldest of their three daughters.

    "We were very proud this was something she wanted to do," James Nesmith said. "We figured we would see if she continued to feel that way as her birthday approached, and she felt more and more compelled to do it. Once everyone found out, they all felt proud of her and wanted to be a part of it. It just grew organically from there."

    Maica was somewhat concerned that not everyone would be behind her effort, but soon it became clear that she had a lot of support.

    "It was really surprising because I thought my friends would be like, 'Why does she not want presents? Why does she just want shoes?' But they were supportive and they decided to go along with it even though they didn't understand why," she says. "My family understood why I wanted to do it, so they immediately thought it was good of me to give up birthday presents."

    The table the Nesmiths had set up during the party at Total Turf -- under a sign reading "Maica's Sole Purpose" -- quickly filled up with more than 40 pairs of shoes in various sizes, mostly sneakers with a few heels for girls and dress shoes for boys.

    The shoes were all donated to the Anna Sample House in Camden, a shelter for women and children.

    "I see all the time that people want to help out and give clothes and school supplies -- like backpacks, pencils and pens and stuff like that -- but I never really see people give away shoes," Maica said. "I know shoes is a really big part of going back to school, because you don't want to have your feet on the ground every day, especially at recess."

    Maica's selflessness is already having an impact in her own home. Her 7-year-old twin sisters, Janai and Gianna, have gotten an interest in philanthropy as well and are planning on starting a lemonade stand for their birthday in the spring.

    "They wanted to follow in my footsteps," Maica said. "Our parents always remind us to be grateful and not to complain. They want to make sure we know how lucky we are."

    Maica, a young lady who is mature beyond her years, has clearly heeded her parents' words of wisdom.

    "We always talk with her and all of our children about understanding that some people aren't as fortunate as they are to have back-to-school items and go on vacations and all of those things that kids and people in general can take for granted," James Nesmith said. "I think those lessons are paying off and it's just part of who she is. She doesn't have to wait until she's 20 or 30; she's recognizing how fortunate she is now."

    Sole Purpose 2.jpgMaica Nesmith shows off the new shoes donated for her birthday collection drive for kids in need. (Matt Cosentino)  

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    NJ Advance Media breaks down the top lockdown defenders back in 2018.

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    The Philly Naked Bike Ride promotes the safety concerns of bicyclists and pedestrians as well as body positivity, and recognizes the human dependence on oil.

    PHILADELPHIA -- It can come as a bit of a shock for those caught unaware that the Philly Naked Bike Ride was touring the city Saturday evening.

    "I'm not sure whether to look or to cover my eyes," said a man standing along the street at Rittenhouse Square, with a laugh.

    "Wait! They're coming here now?" asked a woman excitedly shortly before a lone male bicyclist -- wearing only socks, sneakers, and a backpack -- stopped traffic in an attempt to reroute the vehicles away from the planned route.

    After some confusion on the drivers' parts, most of the traffic did choose to detour, and moments later a Philadelphia police car led the riders around the square.

    Hundreds of participants -- mostly on bicycles, but some choosing other non-motorized modes of transport such as skateboards and scooters, or just the power of their own two legs -- waved to the crowd as they rode by.

    PNBR, as it is often referred to, is a "bare as you dare" event: Some choose to wear some clothes, some disguise parts of their body with paint, and others ride completely nude -- except for shoes, which are recommended for safety reasons.

    This year's 9.4-mile route -- organizers change it each year -- began at Glendinning Rock Garden and took the participants past famous Philly landmarks such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Rittenhouse Square, City Hall, Independence Hall, and the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, ending at Love Park.

    The purpose of the event is to promote the safety concerns of bicyclists and pedestrians as well as body positivity, while focusing on the world's dependence on oil.

    Similar rides have taken across more than 70 cities the U.S. and 20 countries, according to, as a peaceful way to protest.

    Lori M. Nichols may be reached at Follow her on Instagram @photog_lori and Twitter @photoglori. Find on Facebook. Have a tip? Tell us.

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    Dogs and cats throughout New Jersey patiently await a permanent home.

    According to, a dog lover in Dubai is supplying fresh home-cooked meals for pets in order to provide them with an alternative to processed foods.

    Egyptian expat Nael Basily, 35, said it was his pet dog's medical condition that led him to launch the initiative "Just Chew."

    Basily said his 6-year old golden retriever, Twixy, was diagnosed with cancer in 2017, and veterinarians attributed unhealthy diet and lifestyle to be one of the reasons for the ailment.

    "Back home in Cairo, I used to cook for my pet every day. But ever since I moved to Dubai two years ago, I began feeding her processed food. Although I relied on only premium brands that promised the best nutrition, it was not helping her. So I decided to start cooking for her again and it's working wonders on her health and looks," said Basily.

    "There are 40 pet owners ordering food from me. I have a set menu prepared for all days of the week. I cook two days a week - Sunday and Wednesday. Delivery is done on the same days. I pack food boxes with days of the week marked. Initially I used to do the delivery myself, but now I have a delivery boy," he explained.

    The dishes on his menu include: Chunky Chic, a mix of steamed potatoes, carrots and brown rice topped with a boneless chicken leg, eggshell powder and a splash of olive oil; Jerkey Turkey made of sweet potatoes, zucchini and brown rice topped with Turkey eggshell powder and olive oil a meal containing a mix of steamed veggies, brown rice and salmon bites.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.

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    The end the state's longest winning streak means some shuffling among the Top 10

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    Check out the numbers for your district.

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    Check out which teams made the cut in the second Top 20 of the season.

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    Open containers of food or drink are banned this year.

    If your stomach is growling for a Wawa breakfast sandwich and you planned to finish it off with some coffee just before the bell rings at Pennsauken High School, think again.

    Richard Bonkowski, the new principal, sent a letter to students just before the start of school year this month banning "any open containers of beverages or food"..."anywhere in the building at any time."

    Bonkowski and district Superintendent Ronnie Tarchichi told NJ Advance Media the policy was needed because open food and beverage containers posed a "hazard" and because hot coffee can spill on other students or in the hallway.

    IMG_4541.JPGA new food policy at Pennsauken High School is stirring debate. 

    The policy has stirred debate on social media among parents and students who went back and forth on a local Facebook group.

    "These young scholars leave home before 6:30 a.m. and may not have lunch till 11 or 12," Philippa Chaplin, a parent, posted on Facebook. "That's a long time to go without food or drink. Why can't they bring a snack or bottle of water or juice from home?"

    Bonkowski said he was just reinstating an established policy. 

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    "It's a policy that has been in existence on food and beverages in school," Bonkowski said. "When I came here in July, I talked to teachers and assistant principals and one of the concerns was kids walking in the building with Wawa coffee and McDonald's. The whole purpose is coming here to start the day to learn. If they want to go to McDonald's they need to get up a little earlier and not bring it to school."

    Chaplin, who works as a substitute teacher at the high school and has a daughter attending there, said she was not familiar with the policy before it was announced in the last sentence of an letter sent to parents and students in August.

    "It came right out of the blue," Chaplin said during a telephone interview Friday. "If there was a policy, I was not aware of it."

    Chaplin said she often sees students pull out a snack or have a water bottle with them throughout the day but said she "hasn't seen anyone pull out a Big Mac."

    Chaplin said a change in the school class schedule this semester may also challenge the new rule. She said students used to report to their homeroom when the first bell rung at 7:10 a.m., but now they report to their first class and then go to homeroom between the first and second periods. She said many students often have a snack, breakfast sandwich or drink in homeroom before classes started but the schedule change may prevent that.

    The school day runs from 7:10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Chaplin and dozens of others who posted comments on Facebook expressed concerns about not being able to have a snack or a drink for most of seven hours, except for lunch. But comments ranged from sympathy for the students to comments about how a water fountain was sufficient for refreshment when they were in school.

    There are federal regulations for the types of food allowed for meals served in school. Nutritional values, such as the amount of sugar, are regulated. But school districts can control how and when food brought into its buildings -- such as bake sales or student snacks brought from home -- is consumed.

    Some other districts in New Jersey, such as Montclair, allow breakfast to be eaten in the classroom within 10 minutes of arrival and snacks in classrooms during a time designated by the teacher or administrator.

    Chaplin said she planned to ask about the new policy Thursday during a back-to-school night at the high school.

    Bill Duhart may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @bduhart. Find on FacebookHave a tip? Tell us.

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