PATERSON, NJ -  Leaders in government, academia, and business joined with 60 local students, and one Super Bowl champion, on Thursday to celebrate “signing day” for Paterson Public Schools’ newest high school offering.

Announced in November, the Pathways in Technology and Early College (P-TECH) High School program will launch in September at the PANTHER Academy, located in downtown Paterson, across from the Passaic County Community College (PCCC).  

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The school, co-developed by IBM, and made possible by $300,000 in state and federal funding, will add a grade each year as the inaugural students advance, school officials said. Upon graduation, not only will the students receive a high school diploma, they will also have earned an associate degree from PCCC and obtained valuable workplace experience in the tech sector.

While the students were the stars of the program, former New York Giants’ wide receiver, and Paterson legend Victor Cruz, added further gravitas to the celebration, congratulating the students on their desire to learn.

“I am encouraged by you today,” Cruz told his young audience, each of the attentive boys and girls hanging on every word of the celebrity guest.

“I encourage this partnership,” he added, saying that he is dedicated to promoting positive change in the lives of youth through innovative educational programs, and that P-TECH will help educate a new wave of future engineers, inventors, and creators from Paterson.

“My mother used to tell me to always finish what I started. I have always given 110% in everything that I do. No matter what ups and downs you have, push through them.”

Paterson Public Schools Superintendent Eileen Shafer called the new education endeavor, “a great relationship between Paterson schools, IBM, and PCCC.”

“This is truly a celebration,” Shafer, who at the previous announcement said the P-TECH program would enusre that students are “prepared for the jobs of tomorrow, jobs that don’t even exist yet,”  proclaimed. “This is signing day. You students made a decision and have taken direction for the challenge to become a champion." 

“You have taken up the challenge of becoming academic athletes, and you will get an education and experience you need to become champions in the technology sector of our nation’s economy.”

Martin Laird, IBM Corporate Citizenship, promised the students that he and other IBM personnel would visit the school on a regular basis. He used a sports analogy to communicate his academic emphasis.

“This is better than the NFL draft,” Laird stated. “This is about making champions in life. This has been in the planning for four years. We have 3,000 employees for IBM in New Jersey. You students will see more of us in the future. We want to bring the best team of coaches to make a Super Bowl team.”

“Alexander Hamilton looked at a waterfall and thought of energy,” Mayor Andre Sayegh said sounding a familiar theme. “He thought of immigration, innovation and industry. Today, this is part of history. Paterson is an old city with a new vision.”

Among the families in attendance were mother and daughter Marlin and Marlyn Grullon, the younger of whom presently attends the New Roberto Clemente School.  

“Marlyn is so excited,” Marlin exclaimed. “She loves science and technology and has already made some new friends.”

Litzy Herrera also an incoming freshman at P-TECH, can hardly wait until the fall when classes begin, she told TAPinto Paterson.

“I found out in March that I would be coming to P-Tech,” the 14-year old stated. “I applied by myself with the help of my guidance counselor, Ms. Caitlin McGee. “We can get credits for college while going to high school.”   

“I will have opportunities that I never had before,” Destiny Buggs, Litzy and Marlyn’s classmate, suggested. “I’m looking forward to learning new things.”  


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