PATERSON, NJ- When Jason Zelaya arrived in Paterson just over two years ago from his native Honduras he spoke no English. However, thanks to his love of books and reading, especially biographies and mystery novels, the eighth grader at School 20 now is as fluent as most who speak the language as their first. And while his class trip to the Paterson Public Library earlier this month was his first, he was sure it wasn’t going to be his last.
“Amazing,” is how he described the experience before telling TAPinto Paterson that he hoped to return later that day after school, and now saw the majestic facility on Broadway as a resource to work on his homework and school projects, as well as “expand (his) knowledge.”
Jason’s reaction, it was evident, is exactly the one that Library Director Corey Fleming hoped to get from the nearly 30 Paterson students that visited that day, as well from all residents who may not know of the array of services the library provides. Calling it an “educational institution,” Fleming shared his vision of the library as being a resource for everyone in Paterson.
“This is our library,” Fleming said emphatically, before listing off programming available there that starts with reading programs for Paterson’s youngest residents and extends right through to senior citizens. Through their early literacy programming, he continued, his hope is to have Paterson’s children “grow up in the library.”
The trip taken by Nichelle Gordon Scott’s class was the idea of another student, Gavin Burton, who was selected to serve as the school’s ambassador as part of Mayor Jane Williams-Warren’s initiative to get local schools and students more active in the community.
For Burton, it was an opportunity to show his classmate “what the library has to offer, and also feel safe going there.” He said that reading helps students come out of their shells and that the library is an important resource for his classmates and other children that may not have access to books at home.
Unfortunately, Burton lamented, “students sometime feel scared or intimidated” walking to the library because of “some of the issues that surround it.” Expressing compassion for the individuals who spend most of their days loitering in the area around the library, he offered his hope that they can find the help they need so that “Paterson can be the best it can be.”
“It’s a nice place if you really know Paterson,” Burton said, pointing to its history as a guide to where he hopes it can get back to. “This is Silk City” he said proudly, and his goal, by leading the walk on that sunny Wednesday morning, was to “help improve Paterson’s name.”