PATERSON, NJ- When TAPinto Paterson met 4th grade student Ali Beydoun in September he, along with his brother Mohamad, was both “nervous and excited” for his first day of school at the Young Men’s Leadership Academy. Less than halfway through the academic year, the young man was among dozens of students recognized for their efforts in the classroom and beyond on Wednesday.

All of their hard work, whether at raising their grades, improving performance on the PARCC exams, keeping themselves out of trouble, or learning to tie their own ties, shows, according to Superintendent Eileen Shafer that they are all developing “the value of building personal character.”

Their success, she told them, is not simply because the “leaders of tomorrow” decided to make their parents and teachers happy but rather because they demanded the best of themselves.

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Beaming parents snapped photos as their sons were introduced one by one to receive a number of honors as part of the Young Men’s Leadership Academy’s 3rd Annual Holiday Festival Celebration held in the school’s multipurpose room.

Hosted by the school’s PTO it was clear that massive efforts by school administrators, teachers, parents, and most importantly students themselves, to make any previous reports of the facility’s failings a distant memory are not only underway but making an impact.

Guided by their six pillars: stewardship, ownership, scholarship, leadership, partnership, and mentorship, the students are being guided by “perseverance and personal growth,” principal Vernon Maynor said before asking in a booming voice “Who are we” and receiving an even more enthusiastic response of “Young men!”

Asked about increasing academic performance Patricia Keppler, a reading specialist in the school said that 11 of her students went up one guided reading level “in just one month,” an important sign, she indicated, that they are on their way to reading on grade level, a goal, Shafer has often repeated, that is being focused on throughout the district.

Also honored at the ceremony were Board of Education Commissioner Vincent Arrington, education activist Corey Teague, and, represented by several members of their crew, the Paterson Department of Public Works (DPW), with all three, when given the chance to speak, turned the attention right back on the children.

As the night ended TAPinto Paterson found Ali again to ask him what it meant to be a leader, as one of the certificates he proudly held declared him to be. After some thought the future leader offered “a person that follows the six pillars and leads by example.”

“A leader works hard to become the best.”


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