Returning to basic tenets in government, community maintenance and education could produce real revitalization in Trenton as the city heads toward new leadership.
Classroom objectives continued receiving significant support from the Trenton Literacy Movement and the Trenton Board of Education which recently held a year-end celebration to recognize students' completion of their year-long after-school reading programs.
Students in attendance received certificates and completion medals, and the African American Chamber of Commerce donated 500 books for the students to keep them reading over the summer at the suggestion of its CEO John Harmon, a TLM Advisory Board member.
Brilliant. Finally, some person and a fantastic reading initiative comprehends that education needs support from a litany of sources and that education should continue through end of June, July and August.
A press release noted the press being made for early childhood literacy which enhances learning abilities.
With funding raised by the Trenton Literacy Movement, the School Board was able to hire teachers to provide intensive after school reading instruction using the District's computer-based reading instruction program with the goal of helping those students struggling the most to read on grade level.
"We know that students who are unable to read on grade level by the end of third grade will continuously fall further and further behind as they move through the school system because they cannot understand what the books say or comprehend what the teacher is reading," said former Trenton Mayor Doug Palmer, the Chairman of the Trenton Literacy Movement Board of Trustees.
"The first three grades of elementary school are about learning to read. With fourth grade, it's 'read to learn'. We want to make sure every Trenton student is equipped to learn. Every student is precious and we cannot leave anyone behind," Palmer told the assembled students, parents, and administrators."
Reading represents an investment that pays dividends as building blocks produce a secure learning foundation.
TLM received strong support of School Superintendent Dr. Fred McDowell and has worked hand in hand with Elizabeth DeJesus, the School Board's Chief Academic Officer, to set up after school reading programs at all twelve Trenton public elementary schools. There is no cost to the students to participate.
"Elizabeth DeJesus and her team have been our partners and allies in this effort from day one," said Edward Bullock, President of TLM. "It was tremendous to see all these youngsters here tonight excited to read, eager to learn, and making such great strides," Bullock said.
DeJesus expressed pleasure in working toward reading goals as well as being part of a collaboration.
"It has been an honor to work with TLM to provide an After School Reading Intervention Program for many of our second-grade students in all of our Elementary Schools. The program was a huge success and now we have a significant number of students prepared for the academic challenges of third grade. I look forward to expanding our partnership with TLM for the 2018-19 school year. This is just the beginning," she said.
Jean Tunstall, a former Trenton Elementary School principal and now vice-president of the all volunteer TLM Board, saluted the students on their progress.
"We had second grade students who when we started were reading at the kindergarten level and today are reading on level. That's a testament to the hard work of these students and their teachers, the strong backing from their parents, and proof that our youngsters, when supported and encouraged, can do great things, " said Tunstall.
The Trenton Literacy Movement was started four years ago by a group of concerned citizens from across the City and Mercer County who were committed to helping all Trenton students read on grade level by third grade.
TLM received support from NJ Manufacturers, Aetna, (which funded the dinner on Monday evening), Doug H. Palmer & Associates, the Hibbert Group, the Rosemont Foundation, and a number of individual, local philanthropists, including Greg Olsen, George Zoffinger, the Pollack Family, TLM was able to raise over $100,000 to fund the program.
At each of the twelve Trenton public elementary schools there were approximately 15 - 20 students who participated three days a week in an hour-long intensive reading program. While computer-based, students also received individualized instruction and reading assignments, in an effort to help each child improve their reading performance.
At the start of 2nd grade only 13 percent of students in the after-school class were reading at second grade levels and 30 percent were reading at kindergarten or pre-kindergarten levels. By the end of the school year, 65 percentage of these students were reading at 2nd grade levels and no students were at K or pre-K levels.
While people insist on more police, the future of Trenton depends on education.
Palmer pushed for kids to continue reading throughout the summer.
"I spent twenty years representing this City as its Mayor. I saw first hand the great talent of our residents, that when given a hand up, can do great things. We're seeing the same here with these inspiring students," Palmer added.
For more information about the Trenton Literacy Movement, or to support and join TLM's efforts, go to www.trentonliteracymovement.org.