LITTLE FALLS, NJ - Two presentations were given to Passaic Valley Board of Education members at their recent meeting on June 13.

Dr. Susanne Iobst, chemistry teacher, presented students from Passaic Valley High School's honors chemistry course who competed in the the North Jersey ACS competition. The CAD Imagination Contest program is sponsored by the American Chemical Society. 

Founded in 1876 at New York University, the American Chemical Society is a scientific society based in the U.S. that supports scientific inquiry in the field of chemistry.

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"It's a professional society that's one of the oldest and biggest in the world and our students have been competing in the contest for five years," she said. "For this event, high school students are asked to imagine that they are living 25 years in the future and have been invited to write an article for ChemMatters, a magazine for high school students that focuses on the role of chemistry in everyday life."

According to Iobst, students are asked to design the magazine cover. The subject of the article was to describe a recent breakthrough or innovation in chemistry, and/or its applications that has improved the quality of people's lives today.

"The article must be written to fit in one of four categories: alternative energy, environment, medicine/health, or new materials," she added. "Students in the honors chemistry course participated in the North Jersey ACS competition."

The students in the first group who came in first place for "Pollution Pens" were Christina Folan and Lauren Hamilton. Students also came in first place in the second group for "Neurobots." They were Bushra Choudhury, Catherine Fergeson and Raisa Islam.

"These groups were then eligible to participate in the regional Mid-Atlantic Regional competition, held this year in Hershey Park," she explained. "Schools from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware compete. The Neurobots team competed and came in second place."

The contest takes place around the end of March to early April, she added. Students are invited from the chemistry class to put together presentations from their own teams and have to decide what team they want to be on and what category to enter. Other schools that were represented were Bergen County Academy and River Edge High School.

"These were both very high quality schools and has several teams that competed," she noted. "We have high place finishers not just in the state of New Jersey and we thought it would be wonderful to recognize participants this evening."

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Teen Center

The second presentation given at the board meeting highlighted the high school's Teen Center. Representatives of the center who gave an overview of the revamped program were Kelly Carmichael, director; Katharine Escalante, mental health clinician; and Rose Gonzalez, assistant youth development specialist.

According to the Teen Center reps, extensive changes were made to the center, in order to improve offerings and it offered to students during lunch periods and after school until 5 p.m. The center is also open over the summer and during PV closings.

The student based youth service program is in partnership with the New Jersey Community Development Corporation, and is funded by the New Jersey Department of Children and Families.

The program offers a wide variety of resources and activities, which include leadership development, skill-building, counseling, tutoring, recreation, and health and wellness services. Participation in the program is voluntary and completely free.

"For this academic school year we have already served 413 participants so we're really over our requirement for the academic school year and daily events duplicated throughout the school year," said Escalante. "The Teen Center and guidance department are really active."

Additionally, the program takes part in a wide variety of events at the school such as the autism walk, Freshman Fun Day, and volunteering for the CUMAC food pantry in Paterson. The program recently collaborated with the guidance department and took 50 students to a tour of Rowan University. The "Tunnel of Oppression," an anti-bullying program, is another event the program takes part in.

"We had an amazing turnout this past year and we were able to serve our entire freshman class and work with our theater department," she said. 

The program aims to increase the participants for this coming year. There are plans to offer nutrition and career workshops, and collaborate with the local Little Falls Alliance for a Better Community (ABC).

Dr. JoAnn Cardillo, superintendent, said that the partnership with the program is flourishing under the team's leadership.

"Myself, along with Principal Raymond Rotella and Joe Benvenuti, student activity coordinator, visit the teen center several times a year and talk about how things are going with the numbers and the collaboration of ideas," Cardillo added. "Some great ideas have come out of those conversations and I really feel like our relationship with the NJCDC is really flourishing under this team's leadership."