PATERSON, NJ - Just up the road from Paterson’s Great Falls, the natural wonder that helped launch the Industrial Revolution and set Paterson on a path to being a city of innovation for well more than a century, sits the NJCDC Great Falls Youth Center.
Upon the center’s opening in March, 2018, NJCDC Founder and CEO Bob Guarasci said that his “instincts tell (him) that brilliance will emerge from these walls,” a bet he upped the ante on recently when he predicted that thanks to their six week summer STEAM program for middle school and high school students a future Nobel Prize winner was being developed.
In addition to it being an opportunity for the student participants to show off their experiments that offered lessons on Newton’s laws of motion, the celebration also was one to thank PSEG for their 25 years of support to the NJCDC and its programs.
For Rick Thigpen, PSEG’s Vice President of Corporate Citizenship, and Chairman of the PSEG Foundation, the partnership between the state’s largest utility, and the STEAM program makes sense. “We are providing the power so that we can discover the power of Paterson, powering young people to do great things,” he said.
Speaking of the two previous Nobel Prize winners reared in Paterson Thigpen looked around at the students and asked “who’s next?” before urging them to all believe they can also achieve such heights.
“Do your homework, study in school, learn more,” he recommended before adding that he is hopeful some in the room will become future engineers for PSEG.
Tying the program to other efforts to return Paterson to a path of innovation was Mayor Andre Sayegh who referred to an announcement earlier in the week that he had appointed the city’s first Chief Innovation Officer.
“This room shows the power of Paterson,” Sayegh said.
Using innovation and data to solve the city’s most long standing problems, and becoming a launching pad for startups and a creator for the sort of jobs that will continue to emerge “is not the way of the future,” he continued, “it’s the way of the present.”
Among the students rising to the challenge to give up part of his summer recess for academic endeavors was Steve, 11, a 6th grade student at Paterson Charter School for Science & Technology. Acknowledging that his attendance wasn’t quite voluntary, that he signed up because his parents told him to, Steve proudly showed off his work and admitted that it was “pretty fun.”
“Everything causes something,” Steve said when asked what he’s learned far, a lesson, he seemed to understand, pertains to everyday life as well. When this reporter inquired again as to whether or not he was glad to have participated Steve nodded approvingly and said “if we don’t learn now it will be harder in the future. Now we are better prepared,” before trailing off and putting his focus back on his project.
Predicting again that there are “many great inventions to come from this room,” Guarasci shared a simple hope that “programs like this will continue to build great minds in Paterson.”
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