January 19, 2018

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Nearly 50 years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., NJCDC honored Dr. King's legacy by sponsoring three days of community service projects, including one that was designated by incoming Governor Phil Murphy as the official community service project for Passaic County as part of his Inauguration Committee's statewide day of service in honor of Dr. King.

The holiday weekend started off with a bang as volunteers painted and spruced up NJCDC's YouthArts Lab, which hosts arts classes and other youth programming for hundreds of Paterson children and families annually. On Sunday, volunteers and NJCDC staff worked hard to prepare William Waldman Independence House, NJCDC's supportive housing for youth aging out of foster care, for painting the following day. More than 50 volunteers from New Jersey colleges including William Paterson University, Rutgers University, Montclair State University, Kean University, and TCNJ volunteered their time.

MLK Day of ServiceMonday morning brought the Paterson Youth Council's (PYC) 12th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Recognition Awards Breakfast, held at The Brownstone. Each year, the PYC--a citywide youth-led and youth-driven civic program facilitated by NJCDC that is committed to informing and representing the young people of Paterson--recognizes Paterson's most amazing young people and the adults who help them. After receiving a number of nominations, the youth carefully selected winners who have made a difference in Paterson through their commitment to the ideals and virtues espoused by Dr. King.

NJCDC CEO Bob Guarasci opened the Breakfast with powerful remarks, saying, "Friends, Dr. King envisioned an America united in purpose, but unfortunately I think it is fair to say that our nation seems more fractured than ever. Our national dialogue seems overly harsh and each side holds that its view best represent what our nation stands for. But I think it all misses the point. Our nation stands for many things. None of them is right, none of them is wrong. And the America that I live in has room for many different and even diverging viewpoints. And that is the America I believe Dr. King worked to create."

MLK Day of ServiceHe continued, "Now this April will mark 50 years since Dr. King's assassination. In these 50 years, there has been incredible progress in the area of racial equality, but let us make no mistake about it: so long as poverty persists in our neighborhoods, the work of Dr. King must progress. So long as injustice exists in our nation and elsewhere, the work of Dr. King must progress. And so long as educating children in Paterson is any less effective than it is in Wayne or Ridgewood, the work of Dr. King must progress."

Following remarks from Mayor Jane Williams-Warren, who reflected on Dr. King's visit to Paterson just weeks before his death, the Paterson Youth Council members excitedly gave out the Youth Recognition Awards.

MLK Day of Service

This year's recipients were:

Middle School:

Treyvon Watson, Young Men's Leadership Academy
Jonathan Saldarriaga, Norman S. Weir School

High School:

Ishmam Chowdhury, JFK STEM Academy
Jannatul Mummi, JFK STEM Academy

Adults and Organizations:

Elected Official: Dr. Christopher Irving, Commissioner, Paterson Board of Education
Adult: Peter Thornton, CEO, Boys & Girls Club of Paterson and Passaic
Youth-Serving Organization: Oasis, A Haven for Women and Children

At the Breakfast, the PYC members and award winners were joined by hundreds of guests, including Congressman Bill Pascrell, Senator Nellie Pou, Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly, Paterson Acting Police Chief Troy Oswald, Paterson Public Schools Acting Superintendent Eileen Shafer, and several members of the City Council, Board of Education, and Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders, in addition to Mayor Jane Williams-Warren.

mOnly an hour after the Breakfast, members of Governor Murphy's team—including his children Josh and Emma—joined forces with Paterson youth, AmeriCorps members, NJCDC staff, and additional volunteers to participate in another major community service effort. The more than 70 volunteers worked on projects including painting common spaces, assembling book shelves, installing computers, and assembling game tables for Independence House residents, and making 300 bagged lunches to distribute to Paterson's homeless population.

NJCDC CEO Bob Guarasci said, "Thank you to everyone who helped us honor Dr. King's legacy this holiday weekend. From the Paterson Youth Council members, to the Youth Recognition Award winners, to the volunteers who gave it their all, thank you for your work to make Paterson a better and brighter city for all."

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