Establishing a strong and enthusiastic foundation for learning is at the core of Paterson Family Center's (PFC) mission. NJCDC's award-winning preschool prides itself on helping students build a strong foundation for life, which is evident in many of its alumni, including 17-year-old Mohammed Uddin. Years later, Mohammed can still recall his experience at PFC, including joyous holiday celebrations. "I remember Santa came to visit us, and he gave me a Cheerios toy car," Mohammed said.

After PFC, Mohammed became a student at the Community Charter School of Paterson (CCSP), and vividly remembers his eight years there. "CCSP paved my path to success," Mohammed said. "I saw how my peers and I progressed as years went on--not only growing academically, but also building character and forming tight bonds with one another."

He continued, "They called us 'scholars' not 'students'--that's evocative of how they held us to really high standards." He credits CCSP with helping him choose the right high school for him--the STEM Academy at John F. Kennedy High School. There, he's a member of the Robotics/College Ready Team, Society of Minority Engineers, and the National Honor Society.

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After school, Mohammed often walks just around the corner to the Great Falls Youth Center, which NJCDC opened last spring. There, he and his friends spend most of their time doing homework, but they also make time to play video games and enjoy the music room.

Another extracurricular activity also keeps him busy--the Paterson Youth Council (PYC). Organized by NJCDC, the PYC is the premier voice for the city's teens. The yearlong leadership development program introduces members to topics ranging from education to public safety to the arts, and takes them on a variety of trips, including to Washington, D.C. and Ivy League schools. After learning about the PYC from friends, Mohammed decided to apply and was accepted. He said, "It's been amazing! We get to travel to so many different places, organize meetings with politicians (including the Mayor), participate in roundtable meetings, and talk to the Board of Education. It's also been great meeting PYC alumni, and alums from other NJCDC youth development programs."

One PYC experience that has had an especially large impact on Mohammed is the Ivy League Tour. Mohammed said, "While I already knew about the schools we toured, it was different actually visiting them, and it made me reexamine which college might be right for me." A rising high school senior, Mohammed is considering applying to MIT and Yale (two of the three schools the teens visited on their tour), among other colleges and universities.

While he still has plenty of time to decide, Mohammed--who will be the first person in his family to attend college--is debating what will be his major. He said, "First I thought I wanted to major in biomedical engineering, but I took psychology this year and loved it. And I'm also interested in environmental engineering and green technologies."

No matter what college he attends--or what major he chooses--we're confident Mohammed is on the road to success. NJCDC CEO Bob Guarasci said, "Witnessing the growth of students like Mohammed, who have traveled through our cradle-to-college pipeline of programs, fills me and my colleagues with pride and joy."

Mohammed has an enormous amount of gratitude for the impact NJCDC has had on his life thus far. He said, "NJCDC programs have made me feel more prepared to apply to--and go to--college, and get to where I am today."