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New Milford Teachers To Run Through Senegal

Four Bergen County educators will run through Senegal, delivering school supplies. They are, from the left, Aileen O'Rourke, Miki Jensen, Sandrine Labruyere and Cathy Mur.
Four Bergen County educators will run through Senegal, delivering school supplies. They are, from the left, Aileen O'Rourke, Miki Jensen, Sandrine Labruyere and Cathy Mur. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash

NEW MILFORD, N.J. — Five educators from The French American Academy — four from the New Milford campus — will run their way through Senegal next month.

Joining 50 others in a race known as Sénégazelle , they’ll clear seven miles a day.

Along the way, they’ll deliver donated supplies to schools in need.

“And we’ll soak in a lot of the culture,” said Aileen O’Rourke, one of the five and an English curriculum teacher at the bilingual school.

The tenth annual event is organized by a French nonprofit, Bretagne-Outdoor.

But this is the first time the New Jersey educators will participate.

Taking a trip together to the west coast of Africa is natural for the five friends.

They have a mutual connection to all things French.

They work in education.

They love children.

They love to run.

And the trip starts April 7 and ends April 16, which coincides perfectly with their spring break.

So why not?

In addition to O’Rourke, the friends are Miki Jensen of Harrington Park (also an English curriculum teacher) and Sandrine Labruyere of Ridgewood (a French curriculum teacher).

Also participating are Cathy Mur of River Edge (admissions director) and Audrey Poirette of New York City (director at the Jersey City campus).

Labruyere, Mur and Poirette are native French speakers.

“Miki and I do not speak French,” O’Rourke said. “We will be relying on our friends.”

The five have been raising money on a GoFundMe site and through a breakfast they hosted.

The money is used to buy supplies.

When they start their journey, each will carry 50 kilograms’ worth of supplies on the plane. Plus a carry-on.

“We don’t have to take that much – just running clothes and sneakers,” Jensen said.

Once there, they’ll spend two days doing a massive sort of all the supplies and loading them onto trucks.

Starting Monday, April 10, they’ll don their sneakers and hit the road.

They’re excited, they said, because participating in Sénégazelle is a way to give back.

“Something that is important about Sénégazelle, too, is that it is a female race,” Mur said.

It will be good for little girls in the schools to see them, Labruyere added.

“We will be an example,” she said. “We will show them that a lady can run and can teach.”

The French American Academy teaches 230 students on three campuses in New Milford, Jersey City and Morris Plains.

According to the educators, most students are keen on learning French as a second or third language.

To contribute money to the effort, CLICK HERE .

Supplies also can be dropped off in a basket at 80 North Walnut St., Ridgewood.

People can donate erasers, crayons, scissors – anything a student needs. But no books.

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