PATERSON, NJ - Rain trickled down outside of School 24, but the weather couldn’t dampen the excitement taking place inside. Student band members, alongside their music teachers, joyously played their instruments, posters reading “We Count” and “Yo Cuento” decorated the walls, and parents chatted amongst themselves before the meeting commenced.

The June 10 event, billed as an “I Count” Parent Census Presentation, another part of the #PatersonCounts campaign, was held to explain and emphasize the importance of participation in the 2020 United States Census to the city of Paterson. The meeting took place just hours after the “I Count” Census Pep Rally for students.

Participation in the census matters a great deal  to Paterson because it gives the federal government an accurate count of the people residing in the city, according to Patricia Williamson, New Jersey Counts project director for the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.

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“The census is important because in general, the funding is very important from the federal level,” she says. “If you have an accurate count, you will receive the appropriate amount of federal funding in cities such as Paterson. That federal funding goes to school lunches, pre-care, after-care, immunizations, programs such as WIC and SNAP.”

Williamson also emphasized the political ramifications of census participation.

“There’s also political representation, so we want to make sure that we have as many House representatives as possible going to Congress, and that’s based on the population in terms of the census data,” she says.

During the meeting, Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh explained to parents that they need to make sure every person in their household is counted, including children from ages 0-5, which is traditionally the most undercounted age group.

“The stakes are very high,” he said. “If we don’t get a complete count in 2020, we need to wait another 10 years.”

Paterson Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Susana Perón also spoke, in English and Spanish, telling parents that Paterson is relying on them to participate.

“The more Patersonians that are counted, the more federal funding Paterson will get,” she says. “We are starting today.”

Seeking to alleviate any concerns related to how completing Census forms may impact immigration status, officials reminded parents every piece of data collected through the effort is protected under federal law. No one has access to information that can identify individuals or households, meaning non-documented residents should not feel anxious to fill out the census, they assured.

In addition to discussing the importance of participating in the 2020 census, Perón also announced the finalists of the “I Count” Poster Contest in which students created posters centered around the theme of census participation:



  • 1st place: Madison Davis, Roberto Clemente school

  • 2nd place: Daniela Sabala, School 20

  • 3rd place: Rebecca Amaro, School 20

1st Grade

  • 1st place: Robert Bezares, School 24

  • 2nd place: Angel Sanchez, School 20

  • 3rd place: Wander Ulloa, School 24

2nd Grade

  • 1st place: Michael Ventura, Roberto Clemente school

  • 2nd place: Emely Mejia, School 24

  • 3rd place: Jayden Garcia, School 16

3rd Grade

  • 1st place: Ashley Bello, Roberto Clemente school

  • 2nd place: Miguel Carnero, School 20

  • 3rd place: Lucos Sun, School 24

4th Grade

  • 1st place: Dihianna Sosa, Roberto Clemente school

  • 2nd place: Mariely De Jesus, Roberto Clemente school

  • 3rd place: Jazmine Cruz, School 16

5th Grade

  • 1st place: Grace Ovalle, Roberto Clemente school

  • 2nd place: Lynette Lucero, School 16

  • 3rd place: Yoseli Rosas, School 16

6th Grade

  • 1st place: Yoselin Carpio, School 24

  • 2nd place: Doris Chaclan, School 24

  • 3rd place: Valerie Rodriguez, School 26

7th Grade

  • 1st place: Raynier Galvez, School 24

  • 2nd place: Esteban Henao, School 24

  • 3rd place: David Vargas, School 24

8th Grade

  • 1st place: Anjelina Fernandes, School 24

  • 2nd place: Gleni Rubi Ramirez and Valeria Aguilar, New Roberto Clemente school

  • 3rd place: Jennell Beasley, MLK/School 30


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Casey Ferrante is entering her second year at Georgetown and is an intern for TAPinto Paterson.