School 5 Students Offer Their Vision For Great Falls Park Design

Photo by George Garbeck
Photo by George Garbeck
Photo by George Garbeck
Photo by George Garbeck
Photo by Robert Isaiah
Photo by Robert Isaiah
Photo by Robert Isaiah



PATERSON, NJ - City of Paterson planners beware. There may be “new kids on the block” regarding the focus the city should take as it continues its Great Falls revitalization.

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The youthful visionaries are from School 5, where about 50 students put together their own blueprints for the Great Falls’ future.

Here are some of their suggestions - gazebos, petting zoos, recreational areas and ice-cream stands.

With commitment and enthusiasm, the School 5 students on Wednesday put on display their three-dimensional dioramas, models, kaleidoscopic flip-books and PowerPoint presentations as city officials - including Mayor Jeffrey Jones and state-appointed schools superintendent Donnie Evans and - looked on with pride.

 “I worked on my power point presentation for four hours,” beamed Marlon Valverde, one of Mr. Cecala’s fifth grade students.

When asked if she was impressed at the level of commitment the students showed today, Principal Maria Santa stated, “More than being impressed with it, it reaffirms what we know all along and that is our children are talented, are very smart and when given the opportunity they always show that. But more than being impressed, I feel very proud and I feel re-affirmed that we have great students.”

Jones also took note of the students’ intuitive ideas: “When you included a place for boats in that model, how did you know the city is going to have boating again at Pennington Park?” The mayor also highlighted the presentation with a request that all of the children’s projects be put on display in City Hall.

The event coordinator and ten-year educator Christopher Fabor-Muhammad also was satisfied that the event had fulfilled its ultimate mission of creating student camaraderie and instilling in them commitment to an ideal. He said he was sure the cooperation between students, parents, city officials and educators would continue. “ The mayor gave us  a challenge to compete redesigning the city in terms of the Armory  and maybe future projects,’’ Fabor-Muhammad said. “We are implementing a extended day program to encourage talents in the arts.”

“When we first approached the students with this opportunity and ideas, it took over a month,’’ the teacher added. “The projects you see here were done at home; some were done in class with teachers and collaborations in group. We try to make School 5 an extension of home”.

National Park Services’ Superintendent, Darren Boch, offered the School 5 students some motivational words: “One of the things about getting old is you stop dreaming. Kids, don’t stop dreaming.”

The contest winners will be announced on Wed., Feb. 29. T he winning children’s project will be displayed starting March 3 at the Center City Galleries and some of their ideas will be considered when the design for the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park.

 According to the school’s principal, there are no winners or losers. “What we try to do every day at our school is to make sure that our students know: no matter what they say, be comfortable at the school,’’ Santa said. “They are capable and they have it within themselves to succeed and our job as teachers is to make sure they have the path to opportunity to be successful. They can make it out there. This is why I am proud they are able to show their capabilities. There are no losers here today.”

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