In Honor of Those Who Make a Difference: NJCDC Holds 8th Annual MLK Awards Brunch
Tuesday, January 22, 2013 • 3:24pm
PATERSON, NJ – For a few moments on Monday, Shannel Paulino was in the spotlight. The senior at Eastside High’s School of Culinary Arts, Hospitality and Tourism had been named one of the winners of Paterson Youth Council’s MLK Youth Recognition awards for her service work in the city.
But instead basking in the glory by herself, Paulino said there should be others sharing the praise. “I want to share my award with everybody who has made a difference,” she said, “because they deserve it just as much as I do.”
Over the past four years, Paulino has worked on Paterson Toys-For-Tots drives, painted murals with the city’s public works department, and participated in numerous clean-up events.
“I don’t just do it because I want my college resume to look better,’’ she said. “I just do it because I really love it, like I will never stop serving my community, my people and my whole country and the world.”
Her advice for other teens? “I‘ll just tell them never stop believing in yourself and never forget where you came from, because if you do you lost your whole identity”.
More than 300 people attended the awards brunch on Monday at The Brownstone House, the eighth year running that the New Jersey Community Development Corporation (NJCDC) has held the event as a way of recognizing Patersonians who incorporate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ideals in their lives.
The other winners were:
Middle School: Ehi’man Brown – PS 10
Joel Heredia – PS 7
High School: Luis Camacho – JFK STEM Academy
Adult: Alonzo Moody
Organization: Paterson Youth Photography Project Inc.
The Inauguration of the 44th President of the United States Barack Obama was being shown on a big projection screen as people arrived for the event. At times during Obama’s speech, the guests interrupted their brunch to applaud his word, especially when he said things like America being a land of opportunity.
At an event focusing on Paterson youth, Alonzo Moody was the exception among the recipients. Moody has been involved in city community activities before some of the teenagers’ parents were born. “I worked with the youth for 43 years because young people are closer to the truth than us old heads,” said Moody, who works with at-risk youth.
The Paterson Youth Council was started seven years ago by Bob Guarasci, the chief executive officer of the NJCDC. Manny Martinez, the program director for the Youth Council, said the goal is to create future leaders.
The notion has always been to make something of yourself and leave Paterson, get out of here, we want to turn that around we want to reverse that,’’ Martinez said. “We want our young people to make something of themselves, go out travel the world, go to a university, some other place, but then come back to your city and give back. This is really the only way that the city is ever going to get back on its feet, is if we have our best and our brightest and our most talented serving here in our community.”
Nah-Dira Artis, an 18-year-old senior at Garret Morgan Academy and co-president of the Paterson Youth Council, started out as a volunteer in her sophomore year and has been a part of the council for two years as a member. She was involved with Great Falls Youth Corps during the summer.
“I can genially say that working with the Paterson Youth council and the NJCDC, I’ve made so many connections with people outside of high school and I feel as if I’ve grown, mentally I’ve matured,” said Artis.