PATERSON, NJ - While construction workers were busy laying the foundation of the building that will rise on the site along Crooks Avenue where a two-family house once stood, speakers, including Mayor Andre Sayegh and Gilmore Memorial Preschool Executive Director Brenda Belmont, addressed laying a foundation for something even more important, the early education of Paterson children.

“More high quality preschools,” especially in underserved areas like Paterson, Belmont told TAPinto Paterson, translates into “less teens and young people being incarcerated.” 

Slated to be open in time for September 2020, the new preschool, the third location for Belmont and her team, will provide preschool education for up to 135 local children. With locations already on East 22nd Avenue as well as Montclair Avenue, the new school will bring the total number of students education each day by GMPS to over 300.

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Sayegh thanked Belmont for helping to fill a void in the city’s Sixth Ward, and reminisced about the education leader/entrepreneur’s efforts to transform the former Dubai Lounge hookah bar into their GMPS’s second location.

“The Belmonts turned something negative into something positive,” Sayegh said. “Not just for the children but for the community where they improved the quality of life.”

Sayegh added that the lack of available preschool slots means that too often parents have to stay home as a caregiver, something Belmont is working to change as the new spaces will allow mothers to have careers while their children receive “top quality education” from an early age. 

Also on hand was Congressman Bill Pascrell who spoke of the high quality education GMPS offers. “The parents that bring their children here are not dropping them off for babysitting,” the venerable statesman said, something Belmont backed up when she offered that students in her schools receive seven hours a day of academic education, and that both of her schools have the highest levels of credentials offered by both the federal and state governments, as will the new Crooks Avenue location.

Dr. Lilissa Mimms and Ruby Cotton represented the Paterson City Council at the event, both praising Belmont for her efforts on behalf of Paterson’s youngest residents with Mimms saying she was “only expecting greatness” to come from the new school.

“There is no better way to make a community a better place than through early childhood education,” Susana Peron, deputy superintendent of Paterson Public Schools said, adding that the district has partnered with GPMS since the school’s inaugural opening in 2009. 

Responsible for the construction of the 19,000 square foot project, estimated to come with a price tag of approximately $5 million, is Zack Barkawi, a well regarded local developer. Asked why he chose to invest in building a preschool, instead of housing or retail that could potentially provide more income, Barkawi said that “there are many ways to make money, but making a positive impact on children’s lives is the ultimate goal.”

Sayegh concluded by saying that he had so much confidence in GMPS that he and his wife chose to send their oldest daughter to the Montclair Avenue location. "Gilmore Memorial is helping our chldren grow by giving them the best possible start."