A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Tuesday, January 21 to officially open New Jersey’s first federally-funded Full Service Community School (FSCS) high school – the John F. Kennedy Educational Complex in Paterson.
Felician University receives $40,000 annually as part of the five-year $2.5 million dollar grant to provide academic support to the Paterson FSCS.Felician currently provides comprehensive services to the FSCS including a summer bridge program that offers remediation courses at Felician University to high school students to help prepare them for college. The bridge program also includes lunch and transportation to and from the Felician Campus.
Other services provided by Felician that are funded by the grant include resume writing, interview skills, and financial literacy workshops, as well as a workshop series on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA workshops are essential in helping current and prospective college students determine their eligibility for student financial aid.
Tiffany Austin, Director of Career Development at Felician University says, “After the career readiness workshops, it is important for us to provide a survey to assess student outcomes. The majority of the students are highly satisfied with the presentations and the knowledge gained. A few comments from the high school student participants included ‘everything was great’, ‘the presenters did a great job’, ‘the information was very helpful’, and students would like visits from industry professionals to come and speak in depth about their career paths.”
Dr. George Abaunza, Dean of Felician’s School of Arts and Sciences, who also coordinates this partnership, says, “Some of our students come from Paterson, and our mission is to not only serve students but their communities as well.” Dr. Abaunza went on to say, “Our mission is to be in solidarity with the community and to grow partnerships with them, and they need our help. We have so many resources that we're privileged to have on our campuses, and it's just a matter of sharing with the communities in meaningful ways.”
Felician University’s partnership with the Paterson FSCS is a comprehensive one with the University also offering JFK students internship opportunities on both campuses. In addition to the academic and career support it gets from Felician University, the Paterson FSCS offers various services on site including a student laundry room, community pantry, health center, behavior health room, and other family-centered services.
Rep. Bill Pascrell, who helped secure the federal grant for the Paterson FSCS, talked about the importance of the partnerships saying, “Our push for equality in equitable education must be multi-faceted. I mean, strong federal investments. That means state support and it means collaboration within the community working together. Because only together are we going to do the job of educating our kids.”
Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh was among the dignitaries who turned out for the school’s opening. He spoke not only of the school’s namesake John F. Kennedy but also Martin Luther King, Jr. saying, “So in the spirit of equality and the spirit of teamwork, today we celebrate as a district a major victory, specifically for all the students that walk through these doors.”
Dr Abaunza acknowledged that partnering to help the Paterson FSCS could one day help Felician University saying “Ultimately, these students and their families are going to remember our name because they’re going to know at an early age that Felician was involved with something meaningful to them, and some of them may end up coming to Felician because of that.”