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NJCDC Takes 40+ Paterson Youth on Annual Ivy League Tour

NJCDC Takes 40+ Paterson Youth on Annual Ivy League Tour

April 11, 2024

Check out our Ivy League Tour photos
Watch the Tour Video

NJCDC’s bold vision is that all 8,00 children living or going to school in Paterson’s Great Falls Neighborhood will graduate from high school ready for college and a career. To accomplish this, we run an array of comprehensive college-readiness programming for Paterson youth. Back in 2017, we hosted our first annual Ivy League Tour, bringing Paterson youth to some of the country’s top universities, and showing them that these prestigious schools are in their reach. This year during spring break, we hosted the sixth annual Ivy League Tour, with more than 40 youth from our programs visiting the campuses of Harvard, Brown, and MIT.

Early on Wednesday, April 3, the teens gathered at NJCDC’s headquarters to get on the bus to Massachusetts. Once they arrived, they had lunch before heading to the Harvard University campus for a tour. At Harvard, the group also met with Isabela Gonzalez, a Great Falls Teen Center alumna who is currently in her second year at Harvard. By speaking with Isabela, the teens got to see firsthand what Paterson youth can achieve when they give it their all. After the tour, the students traveled to nearby Boston to eat dinner and visit downtown, including the historic Faneuil Hall Marketplace.


The following morning, the students headed to MIT for another campus tour. Afterward, they attended an information session hosted by MITES, MIT’s outreach program to engage underrepresented youth in STEM. Many of our students have an interest in STEM fields, and they were excited to see all the options available to them at MIT.

“The college I enjoyed the most was MIT, because the art was beautiful and it felt like a community rather than a school,” said Casey, one of the students on the tour. “This tour has shown me that MIT is a great college to consider.”

The students then enjoyed a quick lunch before traveling to Rhode Island to visit Brown University. Brown is known for its Open Curriculum, which allows students to explore their interests, rather than taking a lot of core courses (which is required at most universities). After touring the Brown campus, they went to the Brown Center for Students of Color (BCSC). The BCSC provides lounges and gathering spaces for students to study and hang out, and also operates several programs and events to help students of color succeed in college and make their voices heard on campus.

“This trip will be very memorable to me as I learn about what colleges offer, and it makes me want to take college admissions seriously,” said one student. “I really liked Brown University and their Open Curriculum, as it brings a lot of freedom.”


Over the two-day trip, the students learned that no college is off-limits to them, as long as they work hard. Only 12% of Paterson adults have college degrees, and many students are convinced that students from Paterson cannot go to top schools. By visiting the campuses of prestigious schools — and meeting with peers attending those same schools — the students are able to see themselves going to top schools.

And we’ve seen the impact of this tour over the years — in recent years, 100% of Paterson Youth Council members have gone on to four-year colleges, and students who went on the Ivy League Tour have attended Harvard University, Stanford University, the University of Pennsylvania, Yale University, and so many other top schools.


“The goal of the Ivy League Tour every year is to convince our students that Paterson youth can do anything,” said NJCDC’s Chief Program Officer, David Gelman. “This is such an important opportunity for our youth to see firsthand what they can accomplish. Meeting with current Ivy League students and hearing about their experiences and journeys helps show our students that it can be a realistic goal to attend these schools a realistic option for our students. I am especially grateful to Isabela for taking the time to show our students just what Paterson youth are capable of! We are grateful to the Harvard, MIT, and Brown communities for being so welcoming of our students.”

“We began the Ivy League Tour in 2017 to introduce Paterson students to the best universities in the country, and to help them envision themselves as students at these schools,” said Bob Guarasci, NJCDC’s Founder and CEO. “Over the years since the first tour, it has been so rewarding for me to see so many Paterson youth enrolling in some of our country’s most elite schools. These students are demonstrating that Paterson youth can overcome barriers and compete with their peers from around the country — and around the world.”

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