PATERSON, NJ - While Alex Mendez may no longer hold elected office his commitment to making Paterson better is as strong as ever. That was the message he delivered Sunday at the first of what he said would now become an annual Academic Success Scholarship Awards ceremony held by the foundation that bears the former councilman’s name.

“Actions speak louder than words,” Mendez told the overflow crowd that had come to the Brownstone to support his effort. “If we want to make a difference we have to support our young people.”

Among the dignitaries in the room was Passaic County Sheriff Richard Berdnik who praised Mendez as a “man of the community, a family man, a man who never forgets about the children.”

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Mendez introduced the scholarship winners, each receiving $1,000, one by one, clarifying that while six were anticipated to be given out there was a seventh successful student whose award was quickly donated by the United Bodegas of America, represented by Rhadames Rodriguez, the organization’s president.

Sayeda Choudhury, a senior at the JFK School of Education and Training was one of the awardees and said that it was the motivating words of her teachers and guidance counselor that had helped her get to this point in her academic career. Boasting a 4.18 grade point average Sayeda plans on studying at Rutgers University in the fall.

“In a city where only 10 percent of adults hold Bachelor’s Degree it is my obligation to help break this norm,” Choudhury said. “And by norm I mean people believing that low income students don’t reach high standards.”

Mariam Abreu, a senior boasting a 4.28 grade point average at the Eastside High School of Government and Public Administration, was also on hand to receive a scholarship that she plans to use toward studying at either Felician College or Fairleigh Dickinson University to become a general nurse practitioner. Offering her own advice to fellow students Abreu encouraged them to “do what you have to do to get a good education.”

Also receiving scholarships were:


Kevin Joaquim Casale, Eastside High School for Culinary Arts, Hospitality, and Tourism

Kevin Cargill, Eastside High School of Information Technology

Yoselyn Ruan, JFK High School of Architecture and Construction Trades

Amanda Barreto-Zhagui, JFK High School of Technology, Marketing, and Finance

Jihadul Hussain, JFK High School of Technology, Engineering, and Math


Akeira Stone, a sixth grade student at Alexander Hamilton Academy, and a participant in the Paterson Music Project, gave a surprise performance

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