HomeSicklerville News'Caring for the next generations'

‘Caring for the next generations’

Besides teaching and coaching, Kakliah Bruce serves his community

Kakliah Bruce (left) accepts his award from Orlando Mercado, Gloucester Township Human Resources supervisor and council president.

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The Gloucester Township Black History Month awards ceremony on Feb. 26 acknowledged 10 African Americans for their contributions to the community.

The honorees – Michael Jones, Mike Williams, Sydney Griffin, Jasmin Lewis, Tammy Dash, Eric Butler, Alex Hick, Timothy Lee Mims Jr., Fedora Adjei – were cited at a township council meeting.

Among them was Charles W. Lewis Middle School teacher Kakliah Bruce, an educator and coach recognized for his dedication and commitment. He shared his reaction to his nomination, suggested by Lewis school guidance counselor Rhianna Byrne.

“I was overfilled with joy when I was given the award,” he said. “I had no idea that I would be a part of this ceremony. It was a complete surprise …

“The feeling of being nominated and then acknowledged for all of the things I’ve done felt surreal,” added the 25-year-old, who has established a free closet at the school to provide clothes for students in need. “Especially because, as an educator, the things that I do are always pure and always come straight from the heart. I never chase awards, or do things for a thank you.

“The things I do are all out of love and care that I have for the next generations to come.”

Bruce explained how he was inspired by his late grandmother Haidee Linares, who recently died after a second battle with cancer.

“Growing up with her, I watched her feed the entire neighborhood with the little food we had,” he recalled. “I watched her buy gifts on holidays and clothes for the neighborhood kids, when we barely had any ourselves … (She) was a woman who supported everyone.”

The clothing closet inspired by Bruce’s grandmother has profoundly impacted not only students, but the community.

“The free closet at C.W Lewis was started by the desire I have to help,” he noted. “Along with the help of … all of those … in the guidance counselor’s office, we set up a closet where students can shop for items that they need, without paying a dime.”

Along with teaching, Bruce coaches basketball and track, in the belief that sports contributes positively to overall student development, and that lessons learned on the field – including accountability and camaraderie – translate to valuable traits in the classroom.

Bruce remembered one basketball game when his team won big, but along with celebrating the victory, he and the head coach and athletic director used the opportunity to instill values of respect and sportsmanship in the young athletes.

“Being coachable on the court or the field translates to being teachable in the classroom,” Bruce emphasized.

Outside of school, Bruce’s dedication to the community was evidenced by a $500 Target gift card he received from his manager at Target, where he works, to support the clothing closet.

“The $500 gift card was used to quickly defeat the issue I noticed the most in my school, underclothes and coats in the winter,” he explained. “It truly is a blessing. In all things that I do, I just hope that the students are positively impacted by never having to go without serious necessities such as socks and coats during the cold winter months.”

Juggling a teaching career, coaching and serving the community means Bruce’s schedule is tight, but he remains committed to positively impacting his community. He encourages others to start small and make a difference in their communities, emphasizing that a helping hand can go a long way.

“Making a change in the community starts by you being the change you want to see,” he noted. “We can all do it, one helping hand at a time!”

Bruce plans to continue with his clothing closet by possibly involving others.

“I will continue to be led by my heart and do whatever it is to help someone out,” he promised. “However, a big plan of mine would be to collaborate with others to make a big difference in providing clothes for the youth. The kids need it, and I am here to help them out.

“That’s the plan.”


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