PATERSON, NJ - Local and school officials enlisted a new supporter in efforts to get an accurate count of Paterson’s population for the 2020 Census: The Count.

Dancing and cheering with students from Schools 16, 20 and 24, The Count, trekking all the way from Sesame Street to Market Street, is helping Mayor André Sayegh, Superintendent Eileen Shafer and other city, state and federal representatives reach out to Paterson public school students to participate in the 2020 United States Census.  

A long-time children’s favorite, The Count was introduced to students June 10 at the “I Count” Census Pep Rally at School 24.

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With Paterson Public Schools Chief of Staff Pamela M. Powell taking the helm, the theme of the event was clear immediately: students count in Census 2020 because being counted means more funding for their education.

Previous Story: Census 2020 Means Jobs, and Federal Dollars, for Paterson 

Sayegh, who has been speaking of the need to get an accurate count since before he was elected to the city’s top position, gave The Count an enthusiastic welcome, getting students excited about what the character stands for.

“It is the difference between getting funded and not getting funded,” Inge Spungen, co-chair of the Patreson Census Count Committee said about the importance of getting an accurate count.  “There are 800 billion dollars that are allocated every year by the federal government based on the census, and if people aren’t counted, we don’t get the funding to support the people.”

For the first time, the 2020 Census will be offered online, in 13 different languages, as well as through the phone and on paper.  To ensure census participants include all members of the household on the census, Sayegh emphasized the importance of counting all of the students’ family members, ranging from infants to grandparents.

“We have a team here, and it’s Team Paterson,” he said to the students. “And we’re counting on you, team, because the census is not a spectator sport. We need everybody to be ALL IN.”

Shafer wants students to understand the gravity of census participation by giving them the responsibility of telling their friends and family to fill out the form.

“If we don’t get it right in 2020, we don’t get another chance until 2030,” she told the students.

Students, including Naomi, a sixth grader at School 24,  responded well to the pep rally and The Count. The 12-year-old explained that she enjoyed “seeing that kids are playing music and instruments” at the event. She was able to recognize the positive impact of increased funding to the music and arts programs at the school over the years, which is important for census participation in Paterson.

“I feel like it is important that people participate because I feel like they should get out more and speak what they think and what they’re feeling,” she says. “I feel like this school cares about their students.”


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Casey Ferrante is entering her second year at Georgetown and is an intern for TAPinto Paterson.