PATERSON, NJ - Asiyah is only in kindergarten at Paterson School 2 but she already knows how important going to school is. On Tuesday, the five-year-old took a break from eating her cookie to speak with TAPinto Paterson. The treat, a reward for sitting so patiently with her classmates as several speakers, including Congressman Bill Pascrell, Mayor Andre Sayegh, and Superintendent Eileen Shafer, announced that hers would become one of seven in the city to become a “Full Service Community School,” was well earned.
While Asiyah may not have fully understood the importance of the designation, one that, through a partnership with non-profit Oasis- A Haven for Women and Children, will mean that in addition to their already robust classroom learning students will now have access to a health clinic, an emergency food pantry, and an array of educational service for parents, she knew that the adults were visiting that day “so that we can learn more.”
That, Asiysah said, makes her “feel good and happy.”
Through the $2.5 million grant from the the U.S. Department of Education, School 2 and John F. Kennedy Educational Complex are now added to the list of those designated as Full Service Community Schools in the District. Public School 5, the Senator Frank R. Lautenberg School (Public School 6), Public School 15, the New Roberto Clemente School, and the Napier School of Technology will also continue to carry the designation.
“This funding goes directly to empowering Paterson families by bringing many of the services they need to the schools their children attend,” Shafer said previously thanking Congressman Pascrell for efforts to secure the funding. “When families can get the services they need more conveniently, that has a direct effect on our students’ abilities to succeed in school.
Programs and services provided by full service community schools include: in-school health clinic with medical, dental and mental health services; in-school academic assistance; afterschool and summer programs inclusive of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and performing and visual arts; programs to support our students’ transition to elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education; internship opportunities for high school students; career pathways exploration program; chronic absenteeism mentorship; anti-bullying/violence prevention; Restorative Justice; family nights; parent workshops; adult education programs such as ESL and workforce development; and access to social services.
“While watching the news out of Washington, D.C. often leads to despair,” Shafer said before introducing the venerable congressman, “Congressman Pascrell gives us reason to be hopeful.”
“He keeps fighting to schools, for families, and especially for Paterson’s children,” she added before suggesting that she’d be “taking plays from his playbook to keep fighting in Trenton,” for additional funding.
“There’s no magic here,” Pascrell told those gathered offering a reminder that he’s been a part of obtaining the funding for all seven full service school. “Just a lot of hard work.”
“Education is the cornerstone of our society, and if that doesn’t work nothing else is going to work,” Pascrell said. “As a former teacher, I understand the critical importance of ensuring children have direct access to the services they need to help them succeed in school.”
Before expressing his hope for the future of educating the “whole child” thanks to the coordinated efforts of the professionals at School 2 and Oasis, Mayor Andre Sayegh also praised the commitment of Congressman Bill Pascrell.
“As a teacher first, and always a man who has made service his mission, Bill Pascrell is not only our number one fighter in Washington, he’s our champion.”
Asked later about the importance of having a predecessor like Pascrell to look to for insight into the role that only a few have filled Sayegh told TAPinto Paterson that “our renaissance is being built on the shoulders of those that have always believed in our city’s future,” quickly putting Pascrell as well as former mayors Pat Kramer and Jane Williams-Warren in that category.
Also given a chance to speak, and perhaps summing up the importance of the event the best, was eighth grader Tyler Watson. Watson said he’s been at School 2 for three years and loves it.
“This is a second home full of promises,” Watson said. “We are more than just educated, we are taken care of.”