In Paterson, graduating from college is rare--only 7% of adults living in Paterson's Great Falls Neighborhood, the neighborhood we serve, have earned their bachelor's degree, and 90% of residents who are at least 25 years old only have a high school degree or less.
As part of our ongoing efforts to change college graduation outcomes in the City of Paterson, NJCDC sponsored and organized a trip for forty-four Paterson high school students to explore Ivy League universities over their spring break. The teens toured Harvard University and Yale University, as well as MIT.
Visiting college campuses, especially out-of-state schools, is difficult for students whose families struggle financially. By exposing students to different colleges, we work to make college a reality for Paterson youth and remind them of the importance of a college degree. We also strive to excite teens about going to college, and the students going on the trip couldn't dream of a better way to spend their spring break.
After excitedly meeting at NJCDC's headquarters, the teens embarked on a bus that brought them to MIT, where they also attended an information session. They were especially interested in the different engineering programs offered there.
Following an overnight stay in Salem, New Hampshire, the teens toured our country's oldest institution of higher education: Harvard University. The students then visited a university that has graduated five US Presidents, 19 Supreme Court Justices, and 20 living billionaires: Yale University.
At each university, the teens explored the campus firsthand and gained insight into the different programs available to its students. They also greatly enjoyed learning about the history of each school.
The students were all extremely inspired by the trip. Amel Hassan said, "It's been my dream to attend one of the Ivy Schools for as long as I can remember. I come from a large family and since I'm the oldest child, I need to set the example that hard work can help you reach your dreams. I greatly thank NJCDC for setting me up for success!" Nahian Ahmed agreed saying, "During this trip I came across a myriad of faces rushing in and out of the colleges, which made me think, 'If they could make it this far then I can do it too.' I realized that with effort I can make it to the bright streets of Connecticut and Massachusetts, and I'm going to work my hardest to reach that goal."
The students who went on this trip hail from a number of high schools including Garrett Morgan Academy (a STEM Academy founded by NJCDC), John F. Kennedy Educational Complex, and International High School. Many of them are also members of the Paterson Youth Council (PYC), a citywide youth-led and youth-driven civic organization facilitated by NJCDC. The PYC is the premier voice for Paterson's young people between the ages of 14 and 18.
NJCDC's CEO Bob Guarasci said, "Not only are we working to make college a reality for Paterson youth through college tours, college fairs, and admissions workshops, we also strive to show them that no college—including Harvard, Yale, and MIT—is off-limits for them."