PATERSON, NJ - Eastside High School’s School of Information Technology 2019 valedictorian Waleska Valazquez is due to attend George Washington University in September, while graduate Anthony Rodriguez completed his coursework with a 4.0 grade point average will be attending Rutgers University.

Both, Dr. Pinky Miller, a 1986 Eastside High School graduate announced last month, will also have the assistance of a $1000 scholarship awarded by the Dr. Joseph Clark Legacy Fund.

In its first year, the scholarship program, Miller told TAPinto Paterson, seeks to keep the legacy of the principal, who became a household name through press accounts and the major film Lean on Me, alive by “paying it forward.”

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Most only know Clark from the depiction of him by Morgan Freeman, that of a baseball bat and bullhorn wielding leader of the school that had become overrun by gangs and drugs.

But that wasn’t the whole Joe Clark, and that wasn’t the whole Eastside experience, several alum recalled during a weekend marking the film’s 25th anniversary in May.

“He was kind and gentle to the students,” Miller recalled fondly. “He was a hellraiser to the staff,” especially those, she added, that weren’t willing to put the time in to improve the educational outcomes of those they were hired to teach.

1986 Eastside High School graduate, and now Paterson City Council President, Martiza Davila, also reflected on the life-changing role of Clark when she said that she was “supposed to be a statistic.” Raised by a single mother of four it was generally accepted that Davila’s life wouldn’t lead to much, certainly not to the position of leading the legislative body of the state’s third largest city for two years in a row.

“I made it because of people like Joe Clark said ‘believe in yourself,’ Davila recalled, concluding that thousand of students owe him their thanks because he never gave up on them.

Also being awarded scholarships from the fund that Miller hopes will continue to grow and offer educational assistance on an annual basis were:

Dillen Dennis, School of Government and Public Administration

Elizabeth Estrella, School of Culinary Arts, Hospitality and Tourism

Melinda Guzman, School of Government and Public Administration

Keyrin Lopez, School of Information Technology

Delia Maldonado, School of Government and Public Administration

Dewar Lausell, School of Information Technology

Lindsey Marte, School of Information Technology

Diovine Minaya, School of Government and Public Administration

Jennifer Portorreal, School of Information Technology

Daniela De los Santos, School of Culinary Arts, Hospitality and Tourism


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