PATERSON, NJ- If the program for Thursday’s NJCDC 4th annual Friends Breakfast had ended with CEO Bob Guarasci’s comments there would be no doubting the organization’s outsized contribution to Paterson in its 24-year history including:
More than $72 million invested into Paterson’s Great Falls Promise Neighborhood
The construction of 148 affordable housing units
The development of the 900 student Community Charter School of Paterson and the Garrett Morgan Academy, a STEM high school
The revitalization and construction of more than a dozen playgrounds, parks and gardens
For the more than 200 guests in attendance it was, however, the words of two young Paterson residents that truly exemplified the non-profit’s success.
“NJCDC has shaped me to become someone who steps up to the plate when needed to, someone who knows when to ask for help, and someone who knows when to take risks for the greater good,” Maria Chowdhury said proudly. The International High School senior who also serves as vice president of the Paterson Youth Council (PYC) and captain of her school’s volleyball team, and hopes to go to Columbia University in the fall, said it was her participation in a rally on the steps of the Bergen County Courthouse with the PYC that she felt for the first time her voice could be “reach farther than the confines of (her) bedroom.”
Even more direct about the impact NJCDC has had on his development was Miguel Ruiz. At 18 years “young,” Ruiz is a graduate of Garrett Morgan Academy and currently enrolled at Passaic County Community College. “If it was not for NJCDC,” Ruiz said, “I do not know where I would be or where I would be going.”
Going on to list numerous experiences he has had, including traveling to Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California through the Great Falls Youth Corps program, his advocacy for reduced lead in drinking water with the PYC, and several trips to Washington, D.C. in honor if the late Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, Ruiz said thanks to all of this he and his counterparts in the programs “have a vision.”
“A vision to be greater than a number. A vision to be more than just a minority from Paterson. A vision to be a defense attorney, a neurosurgeon, a biomedical engineer, a president, or a park ranger in (his) own backyard.”
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