PATERSON, NJ - It’s been said that leaders are made at times of adversity.

In Paterson, one need look no further than to the Paterson Youth Council, and their response to the continuing spread of COVID-19, to believe that adage will once again ring true as their city grapples under the weight of a global pandemic.

As of Friday there are 733 confirmed cases of the virus among Paterson residents and nine residents have lost their lives. 

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Since 2006 the Paterson Youth Council (PYC) has claimed the mantle as the “premier voice for emerging leaders ages 15 to 18 who live and/or go to school in Paterson.” Facilitated by the New Jersey Development Corporation (NJCDC), the members are highly visible throughout the city taking part in community service activities, hosting citywide youth forums and political debates, and leading efforts to recognize local youth for their service to the community.

On Thursday the 2019/2020 class of the PYC showed that they weren’t going to let what Mayor Andre Sayegh has repeatedly called an “unknown enemy” thwart them in their mission of service when they joined together via a video conference to begin laying the groundwork for a virtual outreach effort to their fellow teens.

While the meeting had a different feel than others, as it wasn’t held in the comfortable confines of the Great Falls Teen Center where they have hosted so many other memorable discussions, it certainly didn’t lack enthusiasm from the nearly 20 participants and their adult leaders.

Among them was Jennifer Guizar who referred to the events of the past few weeks as “like something out of a movie, but very real.”

“We need to promote the idea of staying home,” Guizar suggested, before adding that it is up to them to “offer assistance to those struggling.”

Cindy Munoz admitted that her initial perspective to the potential spread of coronavirus was “different” then it is now, a feeling that Hillary Trujillo seemed to share when she suggested that from her vantage point the virus “started as a meme, now it’s very serious.”

Like nearly everyone else, the members of the PYC are finding themselves struggling with the abrupt changes, including having to learn at home and the isolation of being away from others.

Ariel Moya said that talking “makes him feel better,” while Jadyce Wash spoke of helping her younger sister who needed some extra help with her math assignment that included long division.

As the conversation flowed the light bulb that seemed to light up early in the conversation grew brighter as the PYC members agreed that they would put their network, and social media prowess, to work and host an online discussion in the coming days to give other students an opportunity to share how they’ve been feeling, and provide any assistance they can.

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