PATERSON, NJ - Paterson City Council President Maritza Davila was the youngest in her family, yet the first to go to college, her drive and commitment to education inspiring her three older brother to seek their own degrees.
Tino Rexach is a successful coach in the Paterson Old Timers Youth Baseball League. With over 23 years on the bench he has mentored hundreds of Paterson children, giving them the skills to survive on the field and off.
The Paterson Police Athletic League (PAL) has graduated 5,500 cadets, guiding hundreds of them into productive careers in law enforcement, the fire service, and the United State Military.
With all three receiving Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. community services awards from the Paterson Youth Council on Monday, everything that makes Paterson special was on full display.
Previous Story: Paterson Youth Council Youth Recognition Awards 2018
It was however, the four youth awardees that stood up in front of the hundreds of residents, supporters, and their family and friends at the Brownstone on Monday to receive their own awards who have made a difference in their community through commitment to the ideals and virtues espoused by Dr. King and showed what Paterson's future really looks like..
Selected by members of the Paterson Youth Council (PYC), all four have already made tremendous contributions to their community, and all have shown an ability to recognize, as Dr. King himself espoused, that “everybody can be great...because anybody can serve.”
The Paterson Young Council (PYC) is a citywide youth-led and youth-driven civic organization organized by the NJCDC, described on their website as the premier voice for the city's young people between the ages of 14 and 18. It is a year-long leadership development program that introduces members to topics ranging from education to public safety to the arts.
“Dr. King envisioned an America united in purpose,” NJCDC Founder and CEO Bob Guarasci reminded those gathered. “Unfortunately, I think it is fair to say that today our nation is more fractured than ever.”
And while, Guarasci lamented, “our national dialogue seems overly harsh,” all is not lost for our nation because America has “lots of room for different and divergent positions.”
Indeed, while events in honor of the man whom Mayor Andre Sayegh called “a king, not because he wore a crown, but because he had a causse,” were happening all over the nation, one has to think that the great fighter for freedom and equality was smiling down on the diversity, unity, and spirit of togetherness that he saw in Paterson.
The four youth honorees were:
Raisha Yeasmin, an 8th grade students at Don Bosco Technology Academy where she has a 4.0 GPA. Raisha was recently awarded a certificate of achievement by the Islamic Congregation of New Jersey in recognition of her high academic achievement and also works as a representative at Bridge the Divide, an organization that seeks to improve political and cultural polarization in America. Raisha also works at Tarjimli, where she translates English and Bangla for refugees and aid workers, while still finding time to tutor students in grades K through 6 at Oasis- A Haven for Women and Children. “Raisha’s academic proclivity, work ethic, and most importantly the citizenship and integrity that she displays towards others are second to none,” her nominator, Mr. Thomas Franco said. “Raisha’s goals and aspirations regarding the future are well grounded, organized, and reflect a level of maturity well beyond her years. Given her perseverance, resourcefulness, and always positive outlook, I believe that anything can be achievable for her.”
Destiny-Marie Hernandez, an 8th grade student at Paterson School 10, where she is the Treasurer of the National Junior Honor Society. She participates in the College Bound-Gear Up program at Passaic County Community College, and volunteers as a Peer Tutor. Destiny also visits the Dr. Norman Cotton Senior Residence Building once a month, and has raised money for both St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. She distributed bears for “Bear Hugs for the Holidays”, and served as a Career Day Helper at School Ten’s Annual Career Day. “Destiny lives up to Dr. King’s legacy by embodying the quote ‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?”According to her nominator Ms. Karen Patterson. “She is the epitome of a true role model, and takes her education seriously. You can always count on Destiny to complete any given task with dedication, and she is constantly looking for challenging ways to do more for the youth in her community.”
Emdadul Haque is in 11th grade at STEM Academy at John F. Kennedy High School, where he has a 4.1 GPA. He is Chief of his school’s Robotics/College Prep team, and is a STEM Academy Representative and Ambassador. Emdadul is a member of the Ramapo College Upward Bound Math and Science program, the 21st Century Compete for Life program, the Society of Minority Engineering, NJCDC’s Youth Cares program, and the National Honor Society. He completed the Technical Enrichment and Outreach Program at Fairleigh Dickinson University, the AT&T Cyber and Space Camp at Felician University, and the Anti-Violence Youth Program through the Paterson Police Department. “Martin Luther King believed that people must always place the community ahead of their own interests. Emdadul is a person that lives that code every day,” his nominator Mr. Gilman Choudhury said of the young man that has already amassed over 400 hours of community service. “Emdadul is a person that lives that code every day. Whenever the call for volunteers comes, Emdadul is the very first one to take the lead. His calling is to learn as much as he possibly can to make a better future for himself.”
Katherine Casarrubias is in 11th grade at STEM Academy at John F. Kennedy High School, where she maintains a 4.2 GPA. She is Vice-President of the Student Government Association, and is a member of the Physics club, National Honor Society, College Ready Mentorship Program Team, and Robotics team. Katherine participates in the 21st Century Compete for Life program, and completed the STEM Summer Scholar Academy at Passaic County Community College. She was selected as a National History Day winner on both the state and regional levels, and also won STEM Academic awards in both History and Math and Science. Katherine is a student at the Oasis Saturday Enrichment program, participated in the Ocean Awareness Competition, and has volunteered as a tutor, fundraiser for her school, and musical performer at Valley Hospital. By volunteering significantly in the area of anti-poverty programs, and helps community organizations clean parks, tutoring other students, competing in high-level academic competitions, and participating in various enrichment programs in school; many of them in leadership positions, “Katherine has followed the ideals of Martin Luther King,” her nominator, also Choudhury said. “Her passion is to make the world around her better.”
Each presented with a framed citation for their efforts as well as a copy of Dr. King’s autobiography, three of the four youth awardees took to the podium to offer their own thoughts. Setting the tone for her fellow awardees was Raisha who shared her gratitude to her family for their support and encouragement, her own desire to continue following in the footsteps of the man the day was in honor of to find strength in “a community working together,” and a hope to inspire other youth to work towards an “equal society.”
Speaking after the event Davila told TAPinto Paterson that she was “humbled” to be recognized, offering her hope, like Raisha’s, that her service would be an inspiration to others to do the same. When it comes to making a difference, “doing nothing is not an option,” she concluded.
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