PATERSON, NJ - A Monday pep rally attended by over 300 5th graders from five different Paterson charter schools marked the one year date until the United Census Bureau begins its effort to count event man, woman, and child living in the United States.

Decorated with festive streamers and brightly colored balloons, as well as posters created by the attending students, the spacious second floor gymnasium was transformed to induce excitement for the yearlong effort that Mayor Andre Sayegh has said on countless occasions will have a major impact on Paterson’s future.   

While under Sayegh’s leadership the city can already boast of well established efforts to make up for what, at 146,999, most consider to be a significant undercount of Paterson's population in 2010, including the creation of a local Census Complete Count Committee to develop strategies to encourage an increased rate of response, especially among in traditionally hard to reach immigrant communities, Monday’s event was clearly held to get the children involved, a strategy designed to then extend to parents who are ultimately responsible for responding.

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Sayegh’s efforts to maintain the pep-rally type atmosphere were joyfully received by the young audience who several times throughout broke into spontaneous cheers, including a back and forth answer-chant of ‘Who Counts?’ ‘We Count!’ with the city’s chief executive, and self-appointed cheerleader-in-chief.  Sayegh encouraged students to inform family members and friends that an accurate census count will lead to, “money for parks, schools, bridges, streets, and more."

$25 trillion that will be distributed to communities across the nation through key government programs including those for child health, education, housing, and road construction over 10 years.

“I believe the city of Paterson was undercounted in 2010,” Sayegh proclaimed.  How many here like math? This is all about numbers.”

Sayegh was joined on stage by his wife Farhanna Balgahoom with their who youngest child tucked safely in her arms.

“My wife and I have done our part in adding to the population of Paterson since the last census,” the mayor declared.  “We have had three children of our own!”

Several of the short speeches presented by students emphasized social justice and stressed the opportunity of assistance to everyone, not just a select few, provided by the census.  Among the presenters were Lauren Cabrera and Jahnevaeh Anderson, both 10-years of age, from the Paterson Charter School for Science and Technology.

“Our class members did research about the census,” the girls’ teacher, Magdaline Jovanoski, commented.  “We examined how the census count will affect the city of Paterson. We also combined the arts with our studies.  The students were very enthusiastic.”

“It doesn’t matter where you come from who you are, or what language you speak, we all matter in Paterson,” one student from John P. Holland Charter School said, with another saying that he is “proud to be a Patersonian.”

“I want to help out in the census to make sure there are enough ambulances so people are safe.  I want every person to count.”

“I am a member of the state’s Complete Count Commission,” Senator Nellie Pou told the children. “Paterson is on the move.  We want to make sure that Paterson gets counted. We can show the state that we count.”

Providing a wonderful sendoff for the program were students from the Paterson Arts & Science Charter School who performed lively and well choreographed portion of ‘Madagascar’ which will be presented in full May 3 and 4.

In all, the event was “an active hour of civic engagement,” Sayegh said as he thanked the students for their participation, enthusiasm, and excitement.


Editor's Note: TAPinto Paterson's Editor, Steve Lenox, is a member of the Paterson Census Complete Count Committee.


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