PATERSON, NJ- The background noise of guests enjoying their dinners and engaging in side conversations didn’t dampen the enthusiasm with which each of seven honorees espoused the theme of  an event hosted by Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly on Monday.

From Paterson’s First Lady who accepted an award on behalf of her husband, Mayor Andre Sayegh, to former New York Giant Charles Way, to Lizette Delgado Polanco, Vice Chairwoman of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee the message was clear:

Hope is alive in Paterson!

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“Hope, is an aspiration, an expectation for better days,” Sayegh said before assuring that through the efforts of Mayor Sayegh, and with continued community engagement, “people of Paterson don’t just have to hope, they can believe” that change is coming.

Sue Butterfield, President of the Passaic County Education Association, lamented about the recent tragedies in Pittsburgh and Kentucky in which a total of 13 individuals were killed in anti-semitic and racist attacks. Saying that while news headlines of such events make us feel that hope is lost, and the perpetrators of such acts “create fear” those in the room “inspire hope.”

These emotional words were followed up by Superintendent Eileen Shafer who, as she is accustomed to do at nearly every public appearance she makes, thanked Paterson Public Schools teachers, congratulating them for bringing hope every day to the city’s 28,000 public school students.

“We will continue to inspire hope and create opportunity,” Shafer assured the crowd.

Calling herself the “embodiment of hope,” Delgado, the final awardee of the night, spoke of her own background. A first generation immigrant who grew up in South Jersey, Delgado shared that she was a mother of three at 19, with no education.

She found her calling, and hope, through the labor movement, where has served working families with both the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters.

Now CEO of the New Jersey Schools Development Authority (SDA), the state agency responsive for funding and managing the construction, modernization, and renovation of school buildings in 31 districts across the state, including Paterson where 19 local schools are over 100 years old, Delgado renewed her commitment to ensuring that local students complete their education with “dreams and a vision.”

With the evening winding down and the more than 200 guests filled with inspiration, Wimberly gave one last charge as guests prepared to file out of the room.

“Choose hope over despair,” he preached from the podium. “Everyone has hope inside them, share that hope.”


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